Why has the visa waiver for refugees been suspended?

The government’s decision on Monday to suspend the visa waiver for refugees entering Ireland has been harshly criticized by charities and human rights organisations.

The reason this was done was to protect the integrity of the genuine case support system and prevent it from being overwhelmed, following a significant increase in the number of people coming here in recent months .

OK, what exactly happened and what does it mean?

A: So on Monday Cabinet agreed to suspend visa-free travel for refugees coming to Ireland from 20 ‘safe’ European countries for a year. From midday Tuesday, people who have been granted refugee status in other countries can still apply to travel to Ireland, but will need a visa to do so.

Why did the government do this?

A: Ireland has suspended the application of a Council of Europe agreement abolishing visas for refugees, for fear that the system will be abused and “exploited”.

Ministers were also told of evidence that a ‘side-draw’ was at play, with family or other parties seeking to join those who arrived in this way. The move was necessary to protect the system, preserve public trust and protect the Common Travel Area between Ireland and Great Britain.

Does this have an impact on people coming from Ukraine or does it concern other countries?

A: Visa arrangements for Ukrainian nationals fleeing the Russian invasion will not be affected. This concerns people coming from other countries via 20 “safe countries”.

What evidence was there of abuse of the system?

A: Cabinet Ministers have been made aware of the concerns regarding falsified documents. They were also told that the system was being misused by people who had obtained international protection in a country in Europe before applying for status in Ireland. Ministers were also told of alarming patterns of people coming to Ireland following the announcement of the UK’s Rwanda programme.

OK, so how many people are involved in this?

A: The numbers so far are quite low. We are told that 479 notifications of international protection orders come from EU Member States whose beneficiaries of international protection are visa-exempt, representing 7% of applications for international protection. Government sources admit that while the numbers are low, the move will hopefully have a “chilling effect” on those seeking refuge here.

How does this compare to previous standards?

A: Current trends suggest that the number of applicants for international protection will increase by 300% in 2022 compared to 2019 – currently they are up 191% compared to the same period in 2019.

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