Access to the territory and push backs

Republic of Ireland

Country Report: Access to the territory and push backs Last updated: 23/04/21


Irish Refugee Council Visit Website

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 currently no access for independent authorities or NGOs at air or land borders in order to monitor the situation, nor do there appear to be any plans to allow such access in the future.

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. Despite indications from the Department of Justice that this practice has largely been scaled back, media reports suggest that the policy continued in effect as of March 2020. [1]

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 of persons refused leave to land were Albanian, Brazilian, South African, USA and Bolivian. No further information is provided with respect to  grounds for refusal of entry.[2] The nationalites of other persons refused entry include 48 Afghans, 67 Iraqis, 91 Nigerians and 52 Syrians. According to statistics published by Eurostat in July 2020, 7,455 individuals were denied leave to land in Ireland in 2019. The top five nationalities of persons refused leave to land were Albanian, Brazilian, South African, Bolivian and Georgian.[3] Statistics for 2020 were not available at the time of writing.

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.[4] 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.”[5] According to a subsequent statement from the Minister for Justice, development work commenced in May 2018, “with completion expected by the end of 2018.”[6] However, as of August 2020, the facility remains unopened.[7]



[1]  The Irish Times, ‘Ireland is illegally turning back Georgian and Albanian Immigrants’, 2 March 2020 available at:

[2]  INIS, Immigration in Ireland Statistics, 2019, available at:

[3]  Eurostat, ‘Enforcement of immigration legislation statistics’, July 2020, available at:

[4] Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald, Response to Parliamentary Question No 69, 7 July 2016, available at:

[5] The Journal, ‘Contract awarded for new immigration unit with detention cells at Dublin Airport’, 22 April 2018, available at:

[6] Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan, Response to Parliamentary Question No 545, 12 June 2018, available at:

[7] The Irish Times, ‘Airport immigration detention facility still not operational’, 11 August 2020, available at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation