There is a “problem” if people are boarding aircraft for the State with valid travel documentation and then such paperwork “disappears at the other end”, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said.
Mr Martin said he would be raising with a Cabinet subcommittee the fact that just one person out of several thousand people who arrived in Ireland without a valid travel document in recent years faced related criminal charges.
The Irish Times reported on Thursday that more than 4,200 people arrived at immigration control in Dublin Airport last year with no travel documentation, indicating they had destroyed or lost it before reaching immigration control. The majority of these claimed asylum.
Under the Immigration Act 2004 it is an offence, punishable by up to 12 months in prison or a €3,000 fine, for an adult to land in the State without a valid travel document.
Just one person has been charged with this offence since 2019. They faced a single charge in 2019 and no conviction was recorded.
[ Just one prosecution in four years for failing to produce passport on arrival in Ireland ]
The article was raised in the Dáil on Thursday afternoon by Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell, who asked the Tánaiste if he would agree that “one prosecution and no convictions on 4,200 cases at Dublin Airport in a 12-month period is of concern”.
“Would he [Mr Martin] also accept that it perhaps illustrates that we might need to review the Immigration Act 2004 to ensure that the toolkit is available for our immigration officials and for An Garda Síochána to review such matters properly and, ultimately, because the act itself and those presenting without appropriate travel documents must be disincentivised if they’re doing so without legitimate cause,” Mr Farrell said.
In response, Mr Martin said the State was bound by international conventions and the Geneva convention in relation to asylum seekers but that it was looking at “dealing with this issue at source in terms of the boarding of planes in the first instance”.
“I think if people are boarding [planes] with documentation, and then that documentation disappears at the other end, there is a problem,” he said.
The Fianna Fáil leader added that the State was dealing with a global migration challenge and that “even within the EU people can come into the country and seek housing immediately or are and do end up in emergency housing”.
“It’s a much more complex, much more mobile world,” he said.
“However, if people who present themselves as seeking asylum, under international laws we are obliged to process that asylum application. So I will raise the issue that you [Deputy Farrell] raised with the Cabinet subcommittee on this but it is very challenging. I think the most effective way to deal with it is, is before people board, that there is legit documentation.”