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Dublin: 6°C Wednesday 1 December 2021

People smuggling in Ireland: 'We need to ask, why are they taking this route?'

Yesterday, three men were arrested in connection with people smuggling queries – last year, 4,000 people were refused entry at Irish ports.

Image: Shutterstock/Sophie James

WHAT CAUSES PEOPLE to enter countries illegally?

Last year, over 4,000 persons were refused entry to the State at ports of entry – a rise of over 500 when compared to 2015.

Yesterday, three people were arrested in connection with alleged people smuggling through Dublin Airport.

Two of the men arrested are Aer Lingus employees, and gardaí suspect the two workers might have been facilitating this man’s illegal entry into the state.

The gardaí have begun an international investigation into the case, working with international authorities. The incident today has called into question why people would travel to Ireland without documentation, and how we police people entering the country.


Brian Killoran, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said that although he couldn’t comment in too great detail about yesterday’s case as an investigation is ongoing, that the incident yesterday highlighted the needed to focus on our immigration system.

shutterstock_560005276 Source: Shutterstock/finwal89

The Immigrant Council of Ireland were clear that they don’t condone illegal immigration routes, but warned people not to make assumptions about a person’s motives if they’ve entered a country illegally.

It’s unhelpful to call those arriving into the country without the necessary documents ‘illegal immigrants’, because the reality is much more blurred.

“We need to ask, ‘why are they taking this route?’”

He says that often these people are putting themselves into an incredibly vulnerable position by taking an illegal route into a country, and their motives aren’t always clear.

“Some could be coerced,” he says. “It is likely among them will be those who have been forced and potentially facing exploitation of some kind – sexual or labour related.”

Killoran said that the vulnerability of those being smuggled should be taken into account, and that the the Garda National Protection Services Bureau should be involved in cases of smuggling.

Today’s news has shown we need greater scrutiny of our immigration procedures to ensure they are not just predicated on securitisation issues, but provide fair, transparent and rights-based channels for those seeking to enter the country.

The State’s response

shutterstock_533027638 Source: Shutterstock/Tarasenko Andrey

The demand for visas to enter Ireland has been on the increase in the past few years – with applications increasing by 14% to 115,000 in 2015 – figures which are expected to increase again this year.

With an increase in the demand for visas and other documents to enter the country, the knock-on effect is that those applying are less likely to be accepted.

Does this in turn, lead to a rise in the number of people entering the country illegally?

The Department of Justice say that their processes to get into the country are fair.

“Over 100,000 entry visa applications are received annually for both short stay and long stay duration. The approval rate for entry visas is 91%.”

The department says that part of maintaining the integrity of the immigration system, involves “robust controls to prevent illegal entry”.

Last year over 4,000 persons were refused entry to the State at ports of entry.

When it comes to being aware of the vulnerabilities of those that enter the country illegally, the Department of Justice said that they are aware of the risks.

“It is the case that we are always vigilant in relation to immigration abuses and the risks of individuals becoming victims of illegal immigration or human trafficking.”
This includes An Garda Síochána’s Operation Vantage, which started last year to try to clamp down on sham marriages.

shutterstock_92853325 Source: Shutterstock/Pavel Ignatov

Although the state’s efforts to regulate illegal entry are noted, there are a few noticeable omissions from Ireland’s airport system that could make a difference at limiting those without documentation.

In the UK and the US, for example, they have an integrated system called Advance Passenger Information (API) which means that all airlines must provide details about their passengers before they travel in and out of the country.

If you made your booking through a travel agent, tour operator, another 3rd party or website, this mandatory requirement means that you need to contact your travel provider so they can add your API to your booking.

The benefit of this is that the destination country has information about a person weeks or even months in advance of their arrival.

An RTÉ report indicated that the Department of Justice were to introduce this system in Ireland by the end of the first quarter of this year.

Read: Two Aer Lingus staff among three arrested at Dublin Airport over alleged people smuggling

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