14. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to the hardship the visa restrictions on Libyan citizens is causing a number of applicants; if these restrictions could be lifted in cases other than those working in the beef or oil industries in view of the recent EU deal with the Libyan authorities on migrants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15660/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I take it that the Deputy is referring to the Malta Declaration, agreed by members of the European Council on 3 February, 2017. The declaration seeks to reduce migratory flows and disrupt smuggling networks along the Central Mediterranean route by working with the main country of departure, Libya. The European Union (EU) will seek to,
inter alia, build capacity for the Libyan coast guard and relevant agencies, disrupt smuggling rings, support local development in Libya, ensure adequate reception centres in Libya, support the International Organisation for Migration in stepping up voluntary returns, and enhancing outreach to migrants in Libya.
A principal objective of the Malta Declaration is the stabilisation of Libya. The EU Trust Fund for Africa is the main funding mechanism the EU is using to support stabilisation in Libya, and I understand an additional €200 million has been made available in 2017 to give priority to migration-related projects concerning Libya.
As to the restrictions on consideration of Irish visa applications from residents of Libya, these were put in place in August, 2014 due to the political and security situation in Libya. In doing so, all relevant considerations including the ongoing security situation in Libya and the potential economic impact of the restrictions were taken into account. There is provision for a small number of exceptions to the extent indeed that 109 visas were granted to Libyan nationals in 2016, and 96 in the previous year. As with any visa application, each application is assessed individually based on its own merits and having regard to all the information put forward for consideration.
The position has been kept under review by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department. Ultimately, an appropriate balance must be struck between State security and individual applicants who wish to come here. I have asked my officials to look again at the restrictions in place to consider if there may be some scope to extend the categories of applicants who may be considered for visa processing.