Immigration in Ireland 2011 – a year-end snapshot – major changes and more to follow

Minister Shatter outlines plans for 2012


The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, TD, has today published key figures on immigration related activity in Ireland in 2011.  He also signalled his broad plans for further significant reforms of the immigration system in 2012.

Minister Shatter said since his appointment in March, he has put in place a major programme of initiatives and reforms in the Immigration area.  Significant reforms are already in place and more will follow in the New Year.  The Minister said, "Chief among the initiatives already up and running in this area is the hugely successful Citizenship Ceremony which for the first time ever marks the grant of citizenship with an occasion befitting its importance to the recipient and to us as the host nation.  I have argued for the instigation of such ceremonies for many years and I am particularly pleased that within weeks of my appointment as Minister I was in a position to host the first of these great occasions. A total of 28 ceremonies were held in 2011."   Minister Shatter said these ceremonies are also in their own way helping to restore our sense of what is good about being Irish.

Ireland’s first Visa Waiver Programme, launched as a pilot scheme, has been warmly welcomed by all tourism interests. The Programme has helped the drive to attract more tourists from emerging markets and, crucially, it will remain in place until at least 31st October 2012, covering the period of the London Olympic Games.

The signing by Minister Shatter, in mid-December, of an historic inter-governmental agreement with the UK on the Common Travel Area (CTA) was a major milestone.  The CTA has been a feature of the immigration arrangements with the UK since the 1920’s but this agreement is the first to acknowledge, in a formal document, the importance of its existence for both countries.  It also sets out a road map for future cooperation is this critical area of policy development and practical arrangements.

Minster Shatter has approved the initiation of a new pilot project which will see civilian staff from the immigration area of his department (INIS) take up duty as Immigration Officers at Dublin airport.  Ever since immigration checks have been put in place (1930’s) this role has been discharged by the Garda Síochána. The pilot project, to be launched this month, will see civilians in place at the arrival booths at the airport for the first time ever and will mean that, in due course, Gardaí will be available for redeployment by the Garda Commissioner to frontline policing duties.


Key Figures for 2011

Overall in 2011, approximately 164,000 new applications (i.e. visa, residence, protection and citizenship) were received by Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS); decisions were issued by INIS in almost 178,000 cases (a proportion of decisions issued relate to applications submitted in previous years); and over 111,000 new or renewed registrations of permission to remain in the State were issued by the Garda National Immigration Bureau. 


Registrations

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 2011 year end estimate of non-EEA nationals with permission to remain in the State is approximately 130,500. This compares with 132,200 at the end of 2010 and 134,000 in 2009 when registrations of non-EEA nationals were at their highest. 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%), China (9%), Brazil (9%), Nigeria (9%), Philippines (8%) and USA (7%).


Visas

Provisional figures indicate that approximately 83,000 entry visa applications were processed in 2011, an increase of 8% on 2010. The approval rate for entry visa applications was 91%. The top 5 nationalities applying for visas in 2011 were India (17%), Russia (14%), China (12%), Turkey (5%) and Saudi Arabia (5%).

The Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme with the UK commenced on 1 July 2011 and will run, as a pilot, until 31 October 2012. The Programme is designed to boost tourism and business, especially from emerging markets. Extrapolated visa data from the regions in which the waiver programme operates indicates that visitor numbers from the countries concerned was significantly increased; more precise data will be made available following the completion of the review of the programme.

Tourism Ireland has also reported a significant increase in tourist numbers from the target markets and the number of tourist groups from China more than doubled from July to August 2011 compared to the same period last year. Additionally, a number of Indian and Gulf tour operators have added Ireland to their European itineraries for the first time.


Naturalisation/citizenship

In 2011, major reforms were introduced to the processing of citizenship applications aimed at tackling the backlog of applications that had arisen due to the huge increase in the volume of naturalisation applications in recent years – from 1,000 applications in the year 2000 to 25,671 in 2010, an almost 25-fold increase in the 10 year period. 

The new measures were also introduced with the aim of dealing with almost all new citizenship applications within 6 months.

These measures have resulted in a significant increase in the number of cases decided with double the volume of valid applications being decided in 2011, some 16,000, compared to 2010 when fewer than 8,000 were decided.

By late spring/early summer of 2012 it is anticipated that all standard applications, i.e. non complex cases accounting for 70% of all applications, will be completed within 6 months.

This year Minister Shatter also introduced citizenship ceremonies for the first time in the State. The ceremonies which have been held in Dublin Castle, Cathal Brugha Barracks Dublin, the Garda College Templemore and Cork City Hall, ensure that the granting of citizenship is marked by a sense of occasion for our new citizens.

Persons from 112 countries, such as USA, South Africa, Nepal, Korea, China, Australia, Chile, Japan, Philippines, Rwanda, India and Russia, attended twenty eight citizenship ceremonies in 2011 and further such ceremonies are planned throughout 2012. 


Income Generated from Fees

In 2011, the fee income generated from visa charges, re-entry fees, registration fees, naturalisation and long-term residency and other fees amounted to €29m.


Students

The New Student Immigration Regime came into operation from 1 January 2011 and is designed to reform the student immigration regime in a manner that is better integrated with Ireland's immigration policy generally while providing a stronger regulatory framework for the sustainable development of the international education sector. Key measures introduced include maximum periods of residence in the State on foot of a student permission and a differentiated approach as between "Degree Programme" courses and those at the "Language or Non Degree Programme" level.

The number of non-EEA national students registered to study in the State is approximately 32,500 or 25% of the total number of non-EEA nationals with permission to remain in the State.

Broken down by education sector, 37% of students are pursuing Higher Education (Degree Programme) study, 29% are taking language courses, 23 % further education (non Degree) courses and 11% other (e.g. accountancy, secondary school).


International Protection and Asylum

The provisional figures for 2011 indicate that 1,250 new applications for asylum were submitted. The equivalent figure for 2010 was 1,939. The comparative figure in 2002, when the use of the asylum system by economic migrants to enter the state was at its peak, was 11,600. Provisional figures for end 2011, indicate that there were approximately 5,400 persons seeking international protection accommodated in direct provision centres in the State. 


Removals of illegal immigrants

The removal of illegal immigrants from the State is a necessary feature of the enforcement of immigration legislation with the purpose of upholding the integrity of the immigration system. In enforcing the law in this respect, Ireland is no different to other countries who also remove individuals who have no lawful right to remain within their territory.

Deportations/Removals
Almost 4,000 persons were deported/removed from the State in 2011.

This number comprises of almost 3,700 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, 280 failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants were deported from the State in 2011. The top 5 nationalities deported were Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan, Moldova and Georgia. A total of 111 persons were deported on charter flights and 169 on scheduled commercial aircraft. In 2011, Ireland participated in 7 chartered deportation flights all of which were organised in conjunction with EU agency FRONTEX which coordinates removals throughout the EU.

A further 144 asylum seekers were transferred to the EU member state in which they first applied for asylum under the Dublin Regulation.

In addition a further 41 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 475 persons chose to return home voluntarily in 2011. Of that number, 402 were assisted to return by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The top 5 nationalities of returnees were Brazil, Moldova, Nigeria, Georgia and Mongolia.


Plans for 2012

Outlining the broad elements of his immigration programme for 2012, Minister Shatter said that, "the immigration system can significantly aid economic activity and it is my priority that the system is utilised to the greatest extent possible in that respect."

"In particular, the promotion of the Visa Waiver Programme in the context of the London Olympics will be a key priority with the aim of boosting tourism and visitors to Ireland. Similarly, new initiatives targeted at immigrant investors and entrepreneurs will be prioritised with the purpose of attracting inward investment and job creation."

"In 2012, I will also be focusing on further reforms of the immigration system such as the pilot project to civilianise certain immigration control functions at Dublin airport to free up Garda resources for other operational duties."

Key Priorities for 2012:
· Implementation of an Immigrant Investor Programme and a start up Entrepreneur Programme for Immigrants.
  These Schemes will build on best practice globally and offer the potential for significant inward investment and job creation. Details of these programmes are being finalised and will be announced early in the New Year.

· Review the operation of the pilot Visa Waiver Programme with the aim of promoting and maximising its potential to attract visitors from key target markets particularly during the 2012 London Olympics.

· Implementation of a civilianisation Immigration Officer pilot project at Dublin Airport, to be launched this month, which will see Departmental staff assigned to immigration control duties at the airport. These staff members will work in association with Gardaí in performing this vital screening function. This project is set against a backdrop of reducing Garda numbers, continued commitment to the civilianisation of appropriate tasks, and the need to look afresh at how public services are delivered. Currently, all immigration control duties at the airport are conducted by members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).

· Progress the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 and, following development of key Government amendments, to return to the Oireachtas with this comprehensive legislative centrepiece of a wider programme of reform, in line with the Programme for Government. 

· Building on the historic Ireland-UK Common Travel Area agreement signed on 20 December 2011, work with the UK to enhance cooperation on immigration matters. The objective of such cooperation is preserving the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangement, protecting it from abuse and identifying opportunities to harness its potential to deliver economic and tourism benefits. The continuing existence of the CTA is of immense economic and social importance to the State and it is a major public policy imperative for the Government that it be maintained.

· Develop a comprehensive policy approach to family reunification or settlement. The concentration will be on cases involving non-EEA family members of Irish citizens and also those where both parties come from outside the EEA.  While the Government must retain the discretion to determine the State’s approach to immigration, bearing in mind wider concerns of public policy, the Minister considers that a clear statement of policy will be of benefit to prospective migrants and all those involved in immigration management. 

· Completion of work on the development of an English language/civics test for naturalisation applicants.  Such tests are a standard part of the naturalisation process in many countries worldwide; the ability to speak the language – even at a most basic level - together with some knowledge of the way business is conducted in Ireland is an essential part of the integration process for immigrants and must form an integral part of eligibility for naturalisation.

ENDS

3 January 2012

Note for Editors

Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme
The Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme pilot commenced on 1 July 2011 and will run until 31 Oct 2012.  The Programme is designed to boost tourism and business, especially from emerging markets, and it applies to holders of UK short stay visas from sixteen specified countries.  It allows persons, who are in possession of the relevant type of UK visa and who have been granted permission to enter the UK on foot of that visa, to also travel to Ireland without the need to apply for an Irish visa.  The programme is mainly targeted at those travelling to the UK on short stays, for tourism or business purposes, who might wish to include a short visit to Ireland as part of their overall journey. 

Immigration Control Pilot Project
Dublin airport, one of the busiest airports in Europe, handled approximately 18 million passengers in 2010.  In 2009, a second terminal was opened at the airport. Over 60 airlines operate to almost 180 destinations from Dublin airport. Currently, all immigration control duties at the airport are conducted by members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).

For the duration of the Project, civilian staff drawn from the INIS area (Immigration) of the Department of Justice will be responsible, in cooperation and in association with GNIB staff, for immigration control at Dublin Airport.  Department staff will be responsible for performing all "in-booth" duties including examining both EU and-non-EU passengers to ensure they are entitled to enter the State.  INIS staff will not take part in any matters related to restraint, detention or arrest.

The Department, in consultation with other stakeholders, will monitor and review the operation of the pilot prior to its conclusion and draft recommendations will be produced at that time.