More than 850 asylum seekers arrived in State without papers in first 12 weeks of year

If trend continues an estimated 3,600 asylum seekers will arrive without correct identifying documentation in 2024 compared to 4,159 last year

More than 850 asylum seekers arrived in the Republic without proper documentation in the first 12 weeks of this year, an average of 70 a week, figures from the Department of Justice show.

The number of applicants who arrived without correct identifying documentation — or with no identifying documentation — dropped from 5,800 in 2022 to 4,159 last year. If the trend for the first three months of this year continues, the 2024 figure will be close to 3,600.

It comes as senior officials consider new measures which could mean airlines pay higher fines for not checking documents.

A group of senior officials are examining the level and structure of fines imposed on carriers. They are looking at a straight fine increase and the introduction of increased penalties for repeat offences. They are also considering legislative amendments which would place enhanced responsibility on airlines to conduct appropriate checks on boarding passengers, making it an offence for them not to carry out the checks.


According to information provided to Independent TD Carol Nolan by the Department of Justice, between January and the end of March this year there were 123 arrivals from Somalia without correct documentation, 107 from Albania, 92 from Georgia and 90 from Syria. In 2023, there were 472 arrivals from China without adequate documentation.

In her response to the questions, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said her department has recorded a “significant reduction in 2023 in the number of people arriving in the State without the correct documentation”.

She said in the first 12 weeks of this year, there has been a “further reduction in the numbers arriving without documentation based on the work that the department’s Border Management Unit is doing in co-operation with Gardaí.”

The border unit and the Garda National Immigration Bureau also work with airlines to ensure that passengers have the correct travel documentation when boarding.

“In addition to providing advice to airlines on specific queries, training is provided to airline ground staff on current travel documentation requirements to help them identify fake documents and reduce the number of passengers boarding flights without correct documentation. It is an offence for a person to seek to enter the State without a valid passport or equivalent document,” said Ms McEntee.

Almost 1,000 fines were handed out to carriers last year, costing about €1.5 million. At present, each fine is €1,500, rising to €3,000 for each offence if not paid within 28 days. In 2023, 990 fines and 1,165 cautions were issued.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times