Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, has confirmed to Independent TD Carol Nolan, that deportations of those who have been denied asylum in Ireland are expected to resume this year – amid a sharp rise in the numbers seeking asylum here. The Minister also confirmed to Deputy Nolan that, since 2011, a total of 12,240 deportation orders have been made by her Department.
Deportations were suspended at the start of the Covid-19 crisis, but will now go ahead again, with the Department saying in a statement: “With the lifting of public health restrictions and a return to more normal travel, it must be acknowledged that those who do not have a legal right to remain in this country must return to their own country,” the department said in a statement, stressing that any deportations would only take place following “fair procedure and having gone through all available avenues for appeal”.
The individuals in question are separate from those arriving from Ukraine, who, under Ireland’s rules, have been granted automatic rights of residency here. The information was disclosed after the TD for Laois-Offaly asked a parliamentary question addressing the matter.
In her question to Minister McEntee, Deputy Nolan asked how many asylum applicants living in Ireland were still waiting to receive a first instance decision from the International Protection Office.
She also pressed the Minister for Justice on the waiting times of applicants, who had been waiting any length of time between 0-6 months and five years. She asked the Minister to make a statement on the matter, while also enquiring about the number of deportation orders issued from 2011 to date.
Minister McEntee also confirmed that there are currently 3,692 people in the section 3 process under the Immigration Act 1999, subject to a notification of intention to deport; This statistic includes people who have applied to have a deportation order revoked.
When issued with a deportation order, the person concerned is required to voluntarily remove themselves from the State. When an individual who has been issued with a deportation order fails to voluntarily return to their own country, Ireland, like the rest of the EU member states, puts in place arrangements to return the person to their home country – this system will return in 2022 following the easing of restrictions.
According to Minister McEntee, many people comply with this and leave Ireland without notifying the immigration authorities that they have done so. Having said this, it has previously been acknowledged that the State has no way of quantifying the numbers of those who have left the country, or who remain in Ireland illegally despite the deportation order.
However, only a small number of deportation orders are enforced by Gardai – in 2019, which was the last year deportations took place in Ireland, more than 2,000 orders were issued, however just 298 were actually enforced. In 2018, 1,117 orders were issued but just 163 were enforced.
In additional information provided to Deputy Nolan, Minister McEntee noted that in recent months, the number of people claiming international protection has risen significantly, with 6,498 applications lodged so far this year to the end of June 2022.
This represents a 191% increase on the same period in 2019, the last year in which application numbers were not impacted by COVID-19.
Separately, it was also revealed that in total, at the end of June 2022, there were 9,048 international protection applications awaiting what is termed a ‘first instance decision’ at the International Protection Office (IPO) within the Department of Justice.
“6,209 of these applicants have been waiting less than 6 months, however, 1,308 have been waiting between 6 and 12 months while 605 applicants have been waiting between 12 and 24 months. A further 813 applicants have been waiting between 24 and 60 months,” Deputy Carol Nolan’s office revealed.
Minister McEntee said her Department is taking all possible measures available to make sure it can process applications as efficiently as possible, and that new measures and procedures will be put in place in order to “improve efficiencies” with regards to the protection process.
It is expected that this will mean the recruitment of an external panel of solicitors, barristers and legal graduates, which is believed to be underway.
Regarding deportations set to take place, the Justice Minister said that her Department and the Garda National Immigration Bureau “adopted a very humane approach to the enforcement of deportation orders during the pandemic,” and that “during this time, no orders were enforced except in cases where an individual would be considered a threat to national security or whose presence in Ireland would be contrary to the public interest.”