On the 26th of this month, Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality, published the annual review of immigration related activity in Ireland for 2014. The review provided key figures for 2014 as well as outlining priorities for 2015.
Publishing the report the Minister stated, “Since my appointment as Minister for Justice and Equality I have prioritised measures contributing to the effective management and continuing reform of the immigration system as well as initiatives contributing to economic activity.”
The British Irish Visa Scheme is an historic initiative which aims to boost tourism and business visitors to Ireland by facilitating visa required nationals to travel freely between Ireland and the UK using a single visa issued by either country was launched by Minister Fitzgerald and the UK Home Secretary in London in October 2014. The initiative will mean that tourists, business visitors and other eligible visitors will be able to visit both the UK and Ireland, including moving freely between north and south of the island of Ireland on a single visa. The Scheme commenced in China in October with India being the next country to benefit in the coming weeks and they are hoping to roll it out worldwide over the course of 2015.
Immigrant investor and entrepreneur programmes. In 2014, 25 applications for residence under the Immigrant Investor Programme were approved and 12 applications were approved under the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme. This brings to the total number of projects approved since the launch of these programmes to 41 under the Immigration Investor Programme and 30 under the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme. Find out more about these programmes >
Civilianisation of immigration services. In September a programme was announced to civilianise immigration functions currently undertaken by members of An Garda Síochána. These functions include frontline immigration checks at Dublin Airport and immigration registration functions. This will result in approximately 125 Gardaí being redeployed; 75 as a result of the civilianisation of immigration checks at Dublin Airport and 50 from the transfer of the immigration permission registration function from An Garda Síochána to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Department of Justice and Equality.
Student Migration. Ireland continues to attract high numbers of non-EEA national students to study at degree level and for English language training. For the period January to end November 2014 almost 49,500 persons were given permission to be in the State as students compared to 45,800 for the same period in 2013. Referring to the closure of several private sector English language colleges in 2014, and evidence of immigration abuse in the sector, Minister Fitzgerald said that the Government has approved a package of reforms to the international education sector and student immigration system.
Citizenship application processing. The review stated that the backlog of naturalisation applications awaiting a decision more than six months, which stood at over 22,000 in March 2011, has been comprehensively dealt with, despite a significant increase in valid application volumes in the intervening period.
Immigration Activity in 2014
- All non-EEA nationals remaining in the State for longer than 90 days are required to register with An Garda Síochána. The provisional 2014 year end estimates of non-EEA nationals with permission to remain in the State is approximately 95,000, compared to 107,000 at the end of 2013.
- The current top 6 registered nationalities which account for over 50% of all persons registered are Brazil (12%), India (11%), China (9%), USA (7%), Nigeria (6%), and Philippines (5%).
- The majority of persons with permission to remain in the State are here for work or study purposes.
- Approximately 172,000 new applications were received by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS); decisions were issued in almost 179,000 cases (a proportion of decisions issued relate to application submitted in previous years).
- Provisional figures indicate that approximately 101,500 entry visa applications for both short and long stay visits were received in 2014, an increase of 6% on 2013 and a cumulative increase of 22% since 2011.
- The approval rate for entry visa applications was 91%. The top 5 nationalities applying for visas in 2014 were India (17%), Russia (14%), China (11%), Nigeria (6%) and Saudi Arabia (5%).
- Asylum applications. 1,444 asylum applications were received in 2014 as compared to 946 in 2013 equating to a 53% increase. This reverses the trend of recent years when application numbers were decreasing year on year. The top three countries of application in 2014 are Pakistan, Nigeria and Albania.
International Protection and Asylum
Legislative reform of the asylum system. The Minister confirmed that legislative reform of the protection system to remove the structural delays which are a feature of the existing system remains a key Government priority. This reform will simplify and streamline existing arrangements and provide applicants with a final decision on their protection application in a more straight forward and timely fashion and, as a consequence, reduce the length of time that applicants spend in the direct provision system. The Minister stated that she expected to obtain Government approval to publish the Protection Bill shortly.
Protection Process Working Group. The working group to report to the Government on what improvements can be made to the protection process, including direct provision and supports to applicants was established in October 2014. Minister Fitzgerald said that she expects the Working Group will submit its report by Easter 2015.
Measures to assist processing of Subsidiary Protection applications. Significant progress was made in clearing the backlog of subsidiary protection applications and it is anticipated that most of the backlog will have been cleared by the end of the first quarter 2015.
Direct Provision System. Provisional figures for end 2014 indicate that there were approximately 4,280 persons seeking international protection accommodated in direct provision centres in the State, some 110 fewer than at the end of 2013 and over 1,800 fewer than the number of persons accommodated at the end of 2010 which stood at just over 6,100.
Syrian Humanitarian Admissions Programme. In December, 2014, Minister Fitzgerald announced that a total of 111 vulnerable people from Syria and the surrounding region had been granted admission to reside in Ireland following applications to her Department from relatives already resident here. In addition, the Government accepted 90 Syrian refugees in 2014 under the UNHCR resettlement programme.
- Civilisation of port of entry duties at Dublin airport
- Extend the use of e-gates at Dublin airport
- Progress the transfer of the immigration permission registration function from An Garda Síochána to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
- Implementation of further reforms of the immigration process with streamlining of the registration and visa re-entry processes including the introduction of an on-line appointment system for re-entry visas by the end of the first quarter
- Worldwide rollout of the British Irish Visa Scheme including introduction of visa biometrics
- Implement a comprehensive reform programme in the area of international education
- Following enactment of the Protection Bill, introduce the new single protection system and following approval by Government, implement the recommendations of the Working Group on the protection process including the Direct Provision System