There have been no official reports of push backs of protection applicants or refoulement at the frontiers of the State. A person who arrives in Ireland seeking entry may be refused leave to land and due to the lack of independent oversight and transparency at airports or ports of entry, it is unclear whether or not a person refused leave to land had protection grounds or had intended to apply for asylum.There is no access for independent authorities or NGOs at air or land borders in order to monitor the situation.
Anecdotal evidence received by the Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre suggests that some people may be refused leave to land and to enter Ireland even when they have grounds for protection. The Irish Refugee Council’s services have witnessed a number of cases of applicants describing that they had only been permitted entry for the purposes of seeking asylum subject to rigorous examination by the border authorities. The Irish Times reported in December 2019 that "Airlines have been told to take such individuals back on a return flight before any opportunity to claim international protection arises." The Irish Refugee Council wrote to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, in January 2020 requesting clarification about these instructions, criteria used and how they adhere to Ireland’s legal obligations. A written response from the Department of Justice stated that the purpose of checks on arrival was to determine if a person is allowed leave to land rather than any assessment of asylum. The response addeded that checks conducted at the point of exit from the plane have “always been a part of immigration control and as a standard procedure it complies with all legal obligations not impeding persons from claiming asylum.” A freedom of information request made by the Irish Refugee Council for information on the policies and procedures on this issue was declined.
Data pertaining to refusals of leave to land at the Irish border is neither disaggregated nor made publicly accessible, with the exception of limited information released in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS)’ annual reports. In its annual report for 2018, INIS noted that 4,797 people were refused entry to the State at various borders and ports. The top five nationalities refused leave to land were from Albania, Brazil, South Africa, USA and Bolivia. No further information is provided with respect to grounds for refusal of entry. The nationalites of other persons refused entry include 48 Afghans, 67 Iraqis, 91 Nigerian, 52 Syrians. The Irish Times reported in December 2019 that by the end of November 2019, 5,687 people had been refused leave to land.
In its review before the UN Committee against Torture in July 2017, the Irish State was asked for detailed information on the numbers of persons denied leave to land, disaggregated by country of origin, and who were not allowed to enter the country as protection applicants. The State did not provide these figures in its response, prompting the Committee in its Concluding Observations to call on the Irish government to ensure that all persons refused leave to land are guaranteed access to legal advice before any return is effected and that the State provides data on refusals of leave to land in its next periodic report. Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has indicated that disaggregated data on refusals of leave to land would be presented in the State’s next periodic report to the Committee, which is due to be submitted in August 2021.
Section 78 IPA amends Section 5 of the Immigration Act 2004 in a way which allows for people to be detained for short periods of time in facilities at ports of entry and/or airports instead of being placed in custody in police stations (see Detention of Asylum Seekers). The Department of Justice and Equality have been working on plans to establish a dedicated immigration facility at Dublin Airport since 2015. At the time of writing, however, the facility remains unopened. Reports note that a contract for developing the facilities was awarded in April 2018 by the Office of Public Works, for the building of a dedicated immigration unit at Dublin Airport, including detention facilities. The new structure would be an expansion of existing facilities and would include “provision of distinct areas for garda immigration officers, which include; offices and communal facilities like changing areas and a canteen” and “detention cells and other essential support space.” According to a subsequent statement from the Minister for Justice, development work commenced in May 2018, “with completion expected by the end of 2018.”
INIS, Immigration in Ireland Statistics, 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3a6Ix25.