Minister Shatter outlines priorities for 2013

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, TD, today published key figures on immigration related activity in Ireland in 2012. The Minster also reported on 2012’s key achievements and outlined his broad plans for further reform of the immigration system in 2013.

Minister Shatter said that there was very significant progress in 2012 on delivering the major programme of initiatives and reforms in the immigration area which he has put in place.

The Minister said, "I am prioritising initiatives to reform the immigration system to contribute to investment in the State and to assist in economic development. Although my Department does not have an overt economic remit, it is playing a full part in restoring our country to economic health."

"2012 saw very positive developments on that front, most notably, the launch of the Immigrant Investor and the Start-up Entrepreneur Programmes and the extension of the Irish Visa Waiver Programme for a further four years to October 2016."

"These measures, which are proving very successful, are designed to stimulate investment and enterprise in Ireland and to encourage increased tourism and business visitors from key target markets to Ireland."

The Immigrant Investor Programme and the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme were approved by Government at the start of 2012 with applications being accepted since April. The Minister said that he was "very pleased to report that fourteen applications had been approved so far representing a total investment in Ireland of over €10.4 million. This investment is projected to protect over 80 existing jobs and create 190 jobs in new enterprises over the next 3 years which underlines the job creation potential of the initiative."

Minister Shatter also referred to other developments in 2012, such as the innovative pilot project to civilianise certain port of entry functions at Dublin Airport and the continuing success of the citizenship ceremonies, which are bringing fundamental change to the way immigration services are delivered. Citizenship continues to be a major success story; 25,000 cases were decided last year which is over three times more than in 2010. In the 3 years between 2008 and 2010 less than 17,000 cases were decided. Minister Shatter said that the story of citizenship in Ireland in the past two years is a truly remarkable one which is without parallel in our entire history.

The Minister said, "With fewer resources, it is more important than ever that public services are provided in the most cost effective and resource efficient way while also continuing to meet the need for services and improve service delivery."

"The civilianisation of immigration officer functions at Dublin airport to free up Gardaí resources for other operational duties is an excellent example of the Immigration Service being at the vanguard of public sector reform." 

As a further example of the commitment to innovation and achieving results, Minister Shatter pointed to the success of his Department in winning the Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Award in 2012 for the introduction of citizenship ceremonies and successfully tackling the citizenship application backlog.

Key Figures for 2012

Overall in 2012, approximately 165,700 new applications (i.e. visa, residence, protection and citizenship) were received by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS); decisions were issued in almost 175,000 cases (a proportion of decisions issued relate to applications submitted in previous years); and over 96,700 new or renewed registrations of permission to remain in the State were issued by the Garda National Immigration Bureau.


All Non-EEA nationals remaining in the State for longer than 90 days are required to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

The provisional 2012 year end estimate of non-EEA nationals with permission to remain in the State is approximately 115,000. This compares with 128,200 at the end of 2011 and 133,200 in 2010. The drop in permissions to remain in the state in 2012 is primarily as a direct result of INIS’s continuing efforts to reduce the backlog of citizenship cases.  In effect, the success of the citizenship project has impacted very significantly on the number of people who are required to have permission to remain in the State. The majority of persons with permission to remain in the State are here for work or study purposes.

The current top 6 registered nationalities which account for over 50% of all persons registered are India (11%), Brazil (10%), Nigeria (9%), China (8%), USA (8%) and Philippines (7%).

The most recent census shows that overall Ireland’s non-Irish national population accounts for 12% of the total population or some 544,000 people. The breakdown of non-nationals in the State according to Census 2011 shows that the majority are from EU countries.


Provisional figures indicate that approximately 88,000 entry visa applications were received in 2012, an increase of 6% on 2011. The approval rate for entry visa applications was 91%. The top 5 nationalities applying for visas in 2012 were India (16%), Russia (14%), China (11%), Nigeria (8%) and Turkey (5%).


The major reforms introduced by the Minister to the processing of citizenship applications aimed at tackling the backlog of applications have resulted in a significant increase in the number of cases decided. Over 25,000 applications were decided in 2012 compared to 16,000 in 2011 and fewer than 8,000 in 2010.

Minister Shatter introduced citizenship ceremonies for the first time in the State in 2011; 38 such events were held in 2012. These ceremonies, which underscore the importance of the granting of citizenship and ensure that it is marked by a sense of occasion for our new citizens, have been universally welcomed.


The number of non-EEA national students registered to study in the State is approximately 31,400 or 25% of the total number of non-EEA nationals with permission to remain in the State.

Broken down by education sector, 38% of students are pursuing Higher Education (Degree Programme) study, 26 % are engaged in further education (non Degree) courses, 28% are taking language courses and 9% other (e.g. secondary school).

International Protection and Asylum

The provisional figures for 2012 indicate that 950 applications for asylum were submitted. The equivalent figure for 2011 was 1,290. The comparative figure in 2002, when the volume of asylum applications was at a peak, was 11,600. Provisional figures for end 2012 indicate that there were approximately 4,750 persons seeking international protection accommodated in direct provision centres in the State, some 650 fewer than at the end of 2011.


Almost 2,700 persons were deported/removed from the State in 2012.

This number comprises of some 2,260 persons who were refused entry into the State at ports of entry and were returned to the place from where they had come.

In addition, 298 failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants were deported from the State in 2012. The top 5 nationalities deported were from Nigeria, Pakistan, Georgia, Tanzania (these persons had claimed asylum as Somali but were shown to be Tanzanian through cooperation with UK) and South Africa. A total of 111 persons were deported on charter flights and 187 on scheduled commercial aircraft. In 2012, Ireland participated in 9 chartered deportation flights, 7 of which were organised in conjunction with EU agency FRONTEX which coordinates removals throughout the EU and 2 were joint operations with the UK.

A further 68 asylum seekers were transferred to the EU member state in which they first applied for asylum under the Dublin Regulation. In addition, a further 55 EU nationals were returned to their countries of origin on foot of an EU Removal Order.

Voluntary Returns 

Rather than be issued with a deportation order, a total of 467 persons chose to return home voluntarily in 2012. Of that number, 383 were assisted to return by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The top 5 nationalities of returnees were Brazil, Moldova, China, Mauritius and Georgia. This is a hugely cost effective programme and every effort is made to increase its usage among migrants who wish to return home.
Immigration data sharing with the UK

The exchange of immigration data between Ireland and the UK prevents immigration abuses and preserves the integrity of the CTA arrangement for the majority of genuine individuals who benefit greatly from it.

Since June 2012, the fingerprints of almost 3,000 Irish visa applicants have been cross-checked against the UK’s immigration fingerprint database. As a result of this sharing of biometric data, since the exchange commenced numerous incidences of identity swapping have been revealed, as well as identifying visa applicants who have adverse immigration histories in the UK.

In a separate data sharing exercise, in 2012 the fingerprints of 1,750 failed asylum seekers were checked against UK immigration records. Almost 30% were matched to UK records such as a UK visa and in the majority of these persons were known to the UK in a different identity (e.g. name, nationality) which demonstrates a high level of identity swapping. The purpose of the exchange is to establish immigration information known to the UK which may assist INIS in processing cases to final decision and facilitating removals where appropriate. Quite clearly this sharing of information is also a sensible precaution against fraudulent activities.

Key Priorities for 2013

Outlining the main elements of his immigration programme for 2013, Minister Shatter said, "The initiatives I will be prioritising in 2013 are both ambitious and progressive. These measures will strike a balance between facilitating those who wish to come here and contribute positively to our economy and our communities, as well as providing State protection to persons who are in genuine need of such protection, while at the same time dealing firmly and fairly with those who attempt to abuse and take advantage of the immigration system."

"Reform of the immigration system will be sustained in 2013 and I will be focussing on major legislative and procedural measures such as the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill and further civilianisation of Immigration Officer functions at Dublin Airport."

"International cooperation will be a central theme of 2013. In the context of the Common Travel Area, I will be prioritising cooperation with the UK on initiatives such as a Common Travel Area visa, which is of potentially significant economic and tourism value, and systems for improved collection and sharing of visa data. Similarly, Ireland’s hosting of Presidency of the EU is an opportunity for enhanced practical cooperation on immigration issues at EU level."

Key Priorities

· Promotion of the immigrant investor and entrepreneur programmes and the visa waiver programme. Building on the success of 2012, the promotion of the investor and entrepreneur programmes and the visa waiver programme will continue to be a top priority with the aim of attracting further inward investment, boosting tourism and creating jobs.

· Extend civilianisation of Immigration Officer functions at Dublin Airport. The successful pilot project has proved the feasibility of assigning civilian staff to immigration control duties at the airport to work alongside Gardaí. Proposals are now being finalised to extend this new model of immigration and border control to the entire airport and possibly to other ports of entry to the State also with the aim of freeing up Gardaí of other operational duties.

· Legislative reform of the asylum and immigration systems. The Minister intends to publish the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill which he hopes will be enacted during 2013. The Bill will radically reform and modernise the approach taken to the determination of asylum applications and applications for permission to remain in the state. The Bill will replace law dating from 1935 (the Aliens Act) and provide a single code of law on entry into and presence in the State of foreign nationals, including a single protection procedure.

· Cooperation with the UK to protect and enhance the Common Travel Area (CTA). Continuing to build on the historic Ireland-UK Common Travel Area agreement signed in December 2011, the Immigration Service will maintain close cooperation with the UK immigration authorities with the purpose of strengthening the CTA arrangement, protecting it from abuse and jointly taking advantage of the opportunities to generate tourism and business activity.

Priorities for 2013 will include systems and procedures to enhance the collection and sharing of visa data to identify persons with no right to enter the CTA before they arrive at the border, and a short stay Common Travel Area visa allowing tourists and business visitors to travel freely between Ireland and the UK.

· The Gathering Ireland 2013 visa. To contribute to the success of The Gathering initiatives will be put in place to encourage and assist visitors from countries who require a visa to travel to Ireland. Approved events taking place under the auspices of The Gathering will be allocated a code which attendees, with verified invitations from the event organisers, will be able to quote in their visa application. These visa applications will be free of charge and will be processed on a priority basis. It is worth noting that many people around the world who will be travelling to events under the auspices of The Gathering will not require a visa to travel to Ireland.

· Case processing measures to reduce the time spent by applicants in Direct Provision accommodation. A panel of persons with legal expertise will shortly be established to assist the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service in processing a cohort of subsidiary protection and leave to remain cases with the objective of speeding up the overall process and reducing the time spent by persons in the Direct Provision system. The Minister expects to see significant dividends from this initiative in 2013.

· Removal of illegal immigrants. The removal from the State of persons with no legal right to be here is a necessary feature of the enforcement of immigration legislation with the purpose of upholding the integrity of the immigration system. Ireland is no different to other countries who also remove individuals who have no lawful right to remain within their territory.

In 2013, the immigration authorities will be focusing on the effective enforcement of deportation orders; in particular to countries it has been difficult to deport persons to in the past. To that end, opportunities for cost effective removal operations in cooperation with the UK, EU and other international partners will continue to be explored. 

· Ireland’s Presidency of the EU. Delivering the migration, asylum and visa aspects of the Programme of Work associated with Ireland's Presidency of the EU will be a key objective during the first half of 2013. The Presidency is an opportunity to work with the Member States on measures that promote closer practical cooperation across the EU and Ireland will be looking to make good progress across a range of dossiers.


02 January 2013