Published last month, the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service (INIS)’ Annual Report 2015 may well turn out to be a historic document. In the words of the Report, “2015 will be remembered for the migration crisis facing the European Union, which is set to continue into 2016.” So, having placed its publication in that context, how does the Report find INIS fared?
The Report begins on an upbeat note. Last year was a “positive, highly active year against a challenging backdrop.” It was “positive” in the sense that the “growing Irish economy and our positive international reputation have again made the country attractive to migrants seeking to work, study and settle here.” It was “highly active” in the sense that there were more non-EEA nationals “legally living” here than before, and with it, a rise in visa and citizenship applications. And the “migration crisis facing Europe” provided the “challenging backdrop”. It meant that “Ministers from across Europe met on many occasions to discuss matters including the threat from international terrorism and the need for a unified EU response to the migration crisis.” So, “making the country attractive to migrants to work, study and settle here” went from being “positive” thing to being a “crisis” in the space of four paragraphs.
It seems fair to subject the Report to a close read. After all, INIS are well known for scrutinising their service users’ documents. They know better than anyone that they’re not going anywhere unless their papers are in order.
International Protection is dealt with on page 14 of a 20-page document. Under the heading “Asylum applications”, INIS reveals that “3,276 asylum applications were received in 2015 as compared to 1,448 in 2014 equating to a 127% increase.” The top three countries of application in 2015 were Pakistan, Bangladesh and Albania. A pie chart helpfully illustrates the top five, the other two being Nigeria and India. The “Asylum applications” section is precisely three sentences long; the first two give the above information and a third explains that an increase in numbers in 2015 is a “reversal of the trend of recent years when application numbers were decreasing.” A bar chart illustrates the phenomenon.
“Maintaining the integrity of the immigration system” takes up two pages – or 10% – of the Report, including bar and pie charts:
“Approximately 3,790 persons were deported/removed from the State in 2015. This figure comprises some 3,451 persons who were refused entry into the State at ports of entry.”
Maybe next year INIS will use precise figures instead of estimates (“approximately”, “some”), which might “improve” rather than “maintain” the integrity of the immigration system.
The Report is vague about the provenance of the deportees. The top five is presented in a pie chart: Brazil, 9.6%; Albania, 9.2%; Nigeria, 7.5%; South Africa, 7.4%; Pakistan, 6%; but this only accounts for 39.8% of deportees; it leaves a majority 60.2% described as “Others.”
The deported “Others” might take slim consolation from knowing that they fared better than the 3,451 people refused leave to land last year. The Report is silent as to who they are and where they were sent. Last year, more people were refused leave to land than applied for asylum (3,276), yet the Report gives no information about them apart from their number. Fortunately, in December a parliamentary question elicited some details from the then Minister for Justice.
Minister Fitzgerald, recently re-elected and current “caretaker” Minister for Justice, revealed the nationalities of some of the people refused leave to land in 2015: Afghan, 139; Eritrean, 11; Iranian, 44; and Syrian 59. With regard to the other 3,238, providing details “would require … the disproportionate expenditure of time and resources relative to the information sought” she said, or, to put it another way, it would be too much hard work.
Things might have been different had the International Protection Act 2015 passed earlier. The Report considers the Act under the heading “Working Group on Direct Provision,” even though the title of the Group was “Working Group to Report to the Government on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and supports to Asylum Seekers”. Also, the Act doesn’t mention direct provision. The Act “responds to 26 of the Working Group recommendations,” which seems impressive until we learn that the Working Group Report “contains a total of 173 recommendations.” Maybe the other 147 were refused leave to land. Still, at 26 out of 173 (15%), the recommendations enjoyed a better rate of success than asylum seekers last year.
The Report considers INIS’ “Response to the Migration Crisis” on page 15 of a 20-page document. One of its features is to be the provision of “international protection for up to 4000 persons overall under the EU Resettlement and Relocation Programme.” Using the language of debts and bailouts, the Report quotes the Minister as saying “Ireland is ready to accept the first tranche of migrants on relocation … Real progress is being made.” Indeed, 176 people arrived “in 2015 alone”. The Report estimates that “