The number of people entering Ireland having lost or destroyed their travel documents has fallen significantly amid an accommodation shortage for asylum seekers and after tougher enforcement measures were introduced.
Some 780 people presented at Dublin Airport in the first quarter of this year without passports, down 38 per cent on the previous quarter and 50 per cent on the peak figure last year, according to Department of Justice figures provided to The Irish Times. However, the numbers presenting at immigration control having lost or destroyed their documentation is still significantly higher than in previous years.
The fall coincides with an overall decrease in the numbers seeking asylum this year following record numbers last year when an average of 1,137 applicants arrived in Ireland each month. In the first quarter the average was 997 a month, a 12 per cent decrease.
People arriving without a passport are still entitled to claim asylum under Irish and international law. However, it is also an offence for travellers to land in the State without a valid travel document. Just one person has been charged with this offence since 2019, but no conviction was recorded.
Last year a total of 4,200 people arrived in Dublin Airport without documentation, with the majority claiming asylum on reaching immigration control. In some cases those involved are brought to Ireland by human traffickers who seize their passports before they reach immigration control.
The surge prompted the Government to introduce measures to combat the issue. Gardaí have been deployed to overseas airports to co-ordinate checks on travel documents of people travelling to Ireland and the Government has pressured airlines to be more vigilant for people destroying documents before disembarking.
Government rhetoric has also become somewhat tougher, with Ministers stressing that Ireland will continue to accept asylum seekers but that existing rules and laws must be adhered to. “It is crucial though that we always have an efficient, fair rules-based system for migration,” Minister for Justice Simon Harris said earlier this month.
However, according to sources working in the immigration sector the biggest impact on the numbers is the inability of Government to provide accommodation to asylum seekers, meaning many are forced to sleep on the street.
The lack of beds for asylum seekers is contributing to a lower number of people presenting without passports and a lower number of asylum seekers overall, they said.
“Those who may be thinking of seeking asylum in Ireland are aware the centres here are at capacity. There’s no doubt that is causing some to look at other options,” said one source.
The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) which houses new asylum seekers remains under severe pressure. As of last week more than 500 new arrivals were without a bed. The number of new arrivals seeking accommodation has fallen in recent months, with 144 new arrivals presenting to IPAS last week, down from 400 in a week late last year.