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The real reason why there are no statistics on the deportation of people refused leave to land in Dublin

According to a letter received by Rural Independent TD for Laois/Offaly, Carol Nolan, the state has a limited capacity for the detention of people who have been refused leave to land at Dublin airport. 

However, there are also no records of the numbers of such persons who have been sent back to their port of embarkation, and I think we can tell you why. Read on …

Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, wrote to Deputy Nolan on July 28 in response to a parliamentary question submitted before the Dáil went into Summer Recess. 

Nolan had requested that the Minister outline

“the measures her Department is taking to fulfil the statutory obligation to return a person refused entry permission to the State as soon as is practicable; if, where a person is refused leave to land at an airport, the priority is to return them on the next available return flight to the last point of embarkation; the number of times persons have been returned on the next available flight during the period 2011 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter.”

Minister McEntee informed Deputy Nolan that neither the Gardaí nor the Immigration Bureau (GNIB) record the numbers who are returned immediately, but that there is now a facility at the airport, the Garda station in Transaer House, which has been operational since March 2022. Persons who have been refused leave to land are notionally detained there prior to their being placed  on a return flight.

However, the Gardaí only have the capacity to house “up to four passengers” which begs the question as to what becomes of others who have been refused leave to land. 

Where are other passengers, if any, detained and what are the procedures for their return? 

This, along with the failure to record the numbers involved, supports Deputy Nolan’s contention that “The minister’s response highlights once again the appalling information deficit that is so characteristic of our immigration system.” Indeed it does. 

Statistics supplied by McEntee in November 2021 suggest that the numbers of those refused leave to land is well beyond the capacity available at Transaer House. According to her response to a question on November 21, 2021 from Dublin Central Social Democrat TD Gary Gannon, there had been 2,333 refusals to land between January 1 and November 14, 2021.

That works out at an average of over 7 refusals to land per day at Dublin airport, which would suggest that the current capacity at Transaer House is inadequate.

 It would also point to logistical difficulties if those 7 persons were detained before being sent back, as Nolan pointed out there is a “statutory obligation” on the part of the State to do. 

Gannon’s point, of course, was concern about those who had been refused to be allowed land and who were then “referred on to the Irish Prison Service for detention until a flight was arranged.” Which conjures up images of hundreds of unfortunates banged up in the ‘Joy awaiting deportation. As another part of McEntee’s reply suggests, he need not have gotten so worried. 

How do we know this? Well, we know this – and the reasons why there are no statistics regarding the numbers who are “put on the next available flight” – because the Minister in part of her response to Gannon admitted that most of those who are refused leave to land are allowed to stay and apply for International Protection anyway.

This happens despite their having been “recorded as a refusal of leave to land.”  

If a person indicates or is identified as being in need of international protection they are admitted to the international protection process. However, they will still be recorded as a refusal of leave to land.

          Immigration Policy: 17 Nov 2021: Written answers (KildareStreet.com)


This Kafkaesque situation in which someone is refused leave to enter the country, but not only enters but is then taken into the International Protection system where they are almost certain to be permitted to remain in the country indefinitely, has previously been highlighted by Gript.

This can be seen from the official statistics on the number of people who arrive at Dublin airport in possession of either no documentation or false documentation but who are allowed to apply for asylum. Presumably, most of these can be accounted for among those refused leave to land. The number of people detailed by McEntee in November 2021 as having been refused leave to land – 2.333 – is close to the 2,082 who were recorded as having presented “no documentation” in 2021.


As the table above, supplied under a Freedom of Information request, shows; over three quarters of those (76%) who presented no documentation were allowed to stay and to make an application for International Protection. 

Presumably most of these are recorded as having been “refused leave to land.”  But of course rather than having been placed on the next plane to wherever they embarked – as they ought to have been – they are mostly still here.  

And that was just for the first seven months of 2022. The total number of persons who arrived at Dublin airport in 2022 with “false or no documentation” was 5,074.

 Who needs Star Trek and teleporting when the Irish state has already solved the problem of bilocation.  

You can be officially “refused leave to land” in Dublin and by rights ought to be back watching Arsenal on the Holloway High Road, or Paris St, Germain in St. Denis, or even the South African cricketers live in Cape Town.  And yet, by the miracle of a dysfunctional immigration system you can still be here.  Maybe even on TV attesting to your devotion for your beloved Dubs or the Kingdom on national TV. 

What wondrous times we live in …

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