Access to the territory and push backs

Republic of Ireland

Country Report: Access to the territory and push backs Last updated: 25/05/23


Irish Refugee Council Visit Website

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 in 2019 suggested 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 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 added 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.

In October 2022, it was reported that a unit was to be established at Dublin Airport in order to facilitate stricter immigration checks in respect of arriving passengers. The establishment of the unit was reported to be part of a range of measures introduced by Government with a view to reducing the number of individuals claiming international protection in Ireland. [1]

Further reports in September and October 2022 indicated that additional immigration control measures had increased at Dublin Airport, targeting in particular individuals seeking to disembark from arriving aircraft with false documentation.[2] One such report indicated that ‘before the flight landed, the crew asked passengers to get out their passports for immigration checks…Once it touched down, border control officers came on the plane.’[3] When passengers queried the practice, they were advised that Immigration Officers were ‘looking for people without visas.’[4] Despite indications from the Department of Justice in recent years that this practice had been largely scaled back, such reports suggest that the policy continues to operate in practice as of 2022.


According to statistics published by Eurostat, in 2020, 2,221 individuals were refused leave to land at Dublin Airport.[5] 2,333 people were refused leave to land at Dublin Airport between 1 January and 14 November 2021. The reduction in refusals of leave to land for 2020 and 2021 was a consequence of travel restrictions implemented following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first nine months of 2022 out of a total of 5,662 persons refused leave to land, 4,969 persons indicated an intention to claim asylum to the Border Management Unit in Dublin airport.[6] The top 5 nationalities refused leave to land in 2022 were Georgian, Somali, Zimbabwean. Syrian and Kuwaiti.[7]

The Irish Refugee Council has previously raised concerns in relation to the increasing number of individuals being refused leave to land from active zones of conflict that are demonstrably unsafe and has urged the government to show proactivity in ensuring effective access to the asylum procedure.[8]

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).

In December 2021, according to a statement made by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, the dedicated immigration facility at Dublin Airport was opened for use in circumstances where an individual is refused leave to land at the air border. The facility houses the newly opened Dublin Airport Garda Station and the Garda National Immigration Bureau. The Garda Station contains four single person cells and two additional detention rooms. The facility was reported to be fully operational as of March 2022.[9] However, it is not known whether immigration detainees are advised and facilitated in seeking legal advice from detention.

Legal access to the territory

See section on Family reunification.




[1] Irish Examiner, ‘Stricter asylum checks, more deportations, and more basic shelter in bid to control migration’, 24 October 2022, available at:

[2] Dublin Inquirer, ‘The Government says it’s bringing back stricter asylum checks, but what does that mean?’, 2 November 2022, available at:

[3] ibid.

[4]  ibid.          

[5] European Migration Network, Detention and Alternatives to Detention in International Protection and Return Procedures in Ireland, November 2021, available at:

[6]  Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Response to Parliamnetary Question No 272. 27 October 2022, available at:

[7] Dublin Inquirer, ‘The Government Says It’s Bringing in Stricter Asylum Checks, but What Does This Mean?’, 2 November 2022, available at:

[8] Irish Times, Rise in people from war torn countries refused entry to the State, 2 August 2021, available at:

[9] Department of Justice, Minister McEntee attends Official Opening of Dublin Airport Garda Station, 6 May 2022, 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