The most recent statistics on “undocumented” people arriving at Dublin airport show no sign of this slowing. Last month we published a report, based on a Freedom of Information request from a Gript reader, which indicated that to the end of July, 2,915 people had produced no passport or other identifying documentation.
On October 27, Rural Independent TD for Tipperary, Mattie McGrath told the Dáil that he had received a response to a question which had had stated that a further 439 undocumented persons had arrived in the month of August, bringing the total to 3,354.
Another parliamentary response to a question from Waterford Independent TD, Matt Shanahan, indicated that the total to the end of September was 3,705. As was apparent from the more detailed response to the Freedom of Information request, the majority – 76% to be precise – are still permitted to apply for asylum.
In her response to Deputy Shanahan, the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, does not state how many of those who have presented themselves with no documents to the end of September were allowed to do so. She did, however, provide another statistic of 5,662 persons who had been refused leave to land, of whom “4,969 persons indicated an intention to claim asylum at the Border Management Unit in Dublin airport.”
The Minister ends that sentence with the rather opaque statement that “This figure includes those who may have had valid documentation.” Which begs the question as to why they would have been among those refused leave to land.
Even assuming that there are persons who arrive here with valid documentation who are refused leave to land for various reasons, the conclusion must be – and it is supported by the statistics from July – is that the vast majority of those claiming asylum at Dublin airport do not have such valid documentation, and comprise the majority of both the 4,969 persons who wished to apply for asylum here, and a majority of the 5,662 persons refused leave to land.
Which in turn begs the question as to how many of those refused leave to land were actually refused leave to stay in Ireland and were put back on another flight? Not many it would be safe to assume.
Minister McEntee also referred to the fact that “a proportion of undocumented arrivals who claim asylum upon arrival in Ireland hold status in another member state and are likely to have travelled here on a convention travel document.” So, while elsewhere in her reply, the Minister refers to inquiries with regard to “the place of origin” of undocumented applicants, it is surely a simple task to identify what flight and from what other state they have arrived. And if so, then the obvious solution is to send those persons back to that place, where they will presumably have some record of the person whom they allowed on a flight to another state during which they have destroyed the documentation they required in order to be allowed onto that flight in the first place. Let it be a problem for some of our EU friends.
That sort of abuse, and that is all that it is, did at least inspire the Irish Government in July to suspend its participation in the Council of Europe Agreement that facilitated that abuse, and Ireland now requires that asylum seekers travelling from participating states have an Irish visa. Whether that has made any difference is unclear but of course when the suspension was announced there was the predictable reaction, as reported by Gript, from the NGO asylum and migrant companies.
One of the reasons for the suspension was the fact that more than 60% of those who had applied for asylum here in 2022 up to July had already done so in another state. However, the former absurd situation that facilitated that – and which is currently suspended – is just one of the “factors which may have contributed to the significant increase in applications for international protection” referred to by the Minister.
Perhaps her Department might also look at the obvious role that another Government Department has had in widely disseminating, in various languages, the happy news that Ireland is a soft touch for asylum tourists, and people who according to international criteria have no valid grounds based on country of origin for applying for international protection anywhere.
One can appreciate the difficulties faced by officials in the Minister’s Department in dealing with all of this. One can also accept perhaps the sincerity of the Tánaiste, in his October 27 response to Mattie McGrath, that he takes seriously the issue of illegal immigration and the need to put an end to it. What is not so easy to understand is the seeming enthusiasm among other parts of the state and among state funded NGOs to turn this country into a magnet for all sorts of chancers. To the detriment of everyone here, including those genuinely fleeing war and oppression.