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Failure to hold passport is key immigration detention trigger

24 Nov 2021 / policing Print

Failure to hold passport is  main detention trigger

Failure to hold a valid passport or visa is one of the main reasons for immigration detention in Ireland, new ESRI research shows.

Alternatives to detention, such as regular reporting to a Garda Síochána station, are used routinely for those being deported or transferred to other member states, the research also shows.

In 2019, 477 people were detained in Irish prisons for immigration-related reasons, reducing to 245 people in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Ireland does not have a dedicated immigration detention facility and, where a decision to detain is taken, prisons and Garda Síochána stations are used instead, typically for short periods.

Between 2015 and 2020, the main immigration-related reason for a committal to prison was failure to hold a valid passport. The second most common reason was failure to hold a valid visa. The use of detention varies depending on the immigration situation of the non-EU national concerned.

The main prison used for immigration detention for men is Cloverhill Prison in Dublin, with the Dóchas Centre used for women.

Immigration detention also takes place in Garda Síochána stations and ports; however, data is not available on detention in these places. Ireland is the only EU member state that does not have dedicated immigration detention facilities.

Non-custodial measures

Alternatives to detention are non-custodial measures and are typically a combination of measures such as regular reporting to a Garda Síochána station and a requirement to reside at a specific place.

Alternatives are most frequently used in deportation order cases and Dublin transfer decision cases, but are used in only a minority of cases of refusals of leave to land where detention is being considered.

Government sources interviewed for the report described advantages in using alternatives, including greater personal liberty

Among the key challenges identified were high levels of absconding, as well as challenges faced by non-EU nationals themselves, such as transportation costs and a sense of being in limbo.

Fundamental rights

Legal remedies and access to legal representation in detention are among the key rights examined in the research.

The detention of international protection applicants must be initially sanctioned by a District Court judge.

This is not the case for the other three categories ― those subject to a deportation order, those refused leave to land, and those subject to a Dublin transfer decision.

Any detained person can challenge the lawfulness of their detention under Article 40.4 of the Constitution.

Legal remedies

Legal practitioners report that legal remedies and legal representation are difficult to access, and legal aid is not available in practice at ports of entry.

The Government is examining a longer-term solution to immigration detention.

F Block in Cloverhill Prison has been identified as an interim solution but is not currently in use due to COVID-19 isolation requirements.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland