The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern TD, today announced that a new system to crackdown on people visiting Ireland who overstay their time will be rolled out next year.

Speaking in Prague where the Minister is attending a meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers, Minister Ahern said that a growing problem facing the EU and Ireland was taking action against so-called "overstayers." But new technology, greater integration of Border systems across Europe and the development of a new entry control system in Ireland would assist greatly in reducing and possibly eradicating the problem.

Minister Ahern said: "We are currently developing a new Irish Border Information System (IBIS).  This will operate on the basis that passenger information collected by carriers prior to departure will be sent to an Irish Border Operations Centre (I-BOC) where it will be screened against immigration, Garda, customs and other watch-lists. In the event that a match occurs the relevant agency concerned would be alerted immediately, facilitating time to take appropriate measures to monitor, intercept, question, stop or arrest the individual concerned.

"The Government has approved the development of the first phase of the system and I expect the roll out of the system will commence during 2010."

The Czech Presidency of the EU is focusing on the effective use of modern technology and sharing of data. The Minister said they see this as key elements in the fight against crime and illegal immigration across the EU. Ireland is backing the Czech move to use shared technology in the fight against organised and cross-border crime and illegal immigration. At today's meeting Minister Ahern stressed that the EU must look to identify the most efficient and effective way of delivering these information requirements, including through the use of Information and Communications Technology and interoperable systems.

Minister Ahern said: "The Entry/Exit scheme proposal being put forward under the umbrella of the Integrated Border Management Strategy for the Union is a very valuable new development.  It is important that we identify quickly and accurately overstayers. I know from talking to other Justice and Interior Ministers today that this is currently regarded as perhaps the biggest problem in terms of illegal immigration into the EU."

The Prague Council also focused on the international protection of children and anti-drugs policy.

The Minister said: "The EU Presidency is placing a strong emphasis on the international aspect of child protection against the backdrop of the risks associated with ever increasing levels of access to the internet and other communications technologies which are being used to exploit children. We have welcomed the decision by the European Parliament and the European Council to approve the Safer Internet Programme 2009-2013 and its emphasis on co-funding and supporting projects that ensure awareness for children, parents and teachers. Crucially, it provides the public with national contact points for reporting illegal and harmful content, especially in relation to child abuse imagery and grooming."

Speaking on the issue of drugs policy, Minister Ahern said Ireland supported the move for a comprehensive and integrated approach to drug law enforcement which not only seeks to cut the supply to drugs markets but also works to reduce the demand for drugs and the damage arising from drug misuse.

15 January 2009