Tuesday, 1 October 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Family Reunification Policy
On behalf of the Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan, and on my own behalf, I thank the Bacik for raising the extreme difficulties being experienced by some people from Syria in obtaining travel documents. As she stated, they have been granted permission to come to Ireland by the Minister as part of the IRPP humanitarian admission programme. I have met some people who have benefited from this programme, which as far as I know, is unique to Ireland. It is hoped that the full complement of 4,000 Syrians will be here before the end of the year. That is our intention.
Irish travel documents are normally issued only to people physically and legally present within the State and who, by definition, have had face-to-face contact with immigration and-or Garda authorities. The checks and balances arising from this requirement assist the State to satisfy itself that travel documents issue legitimately. However, exceptions are sometimes made for persons who are outside of the State. In such cases, the applicants are required to travel to the nearest Irish embassy to complete application forms and to pick up their travel documents. This is necessary to protect the integrity of the process. It enables verification of the identity of the applicant upon application and at the time of booklet collection and links up the elements in the chain between applying and receiving the travel document.
I understand that the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, may exceptionally issue a one-way travel document for those who do not have officially recognised documents. However, such persons must been granted prior permission to come to Ireland. For security reasons, and in line with best practice, travel documents are not sent through international post but are sent by diplomatic channels to the nearest Irish embassy. Even if the level of security offered by international post were acceptable, postal services to the required areas are not always available. I understand that this applies in Syria.
When Irish travel documents are issued, such as to programme refugee beneficiaries, it is to facilitate their travel, where possible. It is the understanding of the immigration service of the Department that while the recipients have been given permission to enter the State and reside in the State, they must make their own arrangements for getting here. While the immigration service will process a valid application and cause to have an Irish travel document produced for the applicant, it is currently outside the scope and resources of the immigration service to guarantee that the travel document will reach an applicant in all instances.
As mentioned by the Senator in her opening remarks, Syria, in particular Idlib, is in a war zone. We would not ask Irish officials to put their lives at risk by attempting to travel there. The ICRC can issue documents for one-way travel in exceptional cases. I am not sure if that has been explored in this instance.