Wednesday, 29 July 2020
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
264. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the responsibility of her Department for recording and monitoring passengers entering Ireland; the role her Department plays in the passenger locator form and follow-up calls to passengers; the number and grade of staff allocated for this specific purpose; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19277/20]
The Border Management Unit (BMU) of my Department has responsibility for securing Ireland’s border at Dublin Airport in accordance with the provisions of the Immigration Acts and Orders as they relate to entry and refusal of entry to the State. The Unit has also been collecting and checking Public Health Passenger Locator Forms at Dublin Airport, and undertaking follow-up phone calls on arrivals into Dublin Airport and all other ports of entry nationwide on behalf of the health authorities, since 28 April 2020.
The mandatory regime, as set out in the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form) Regulations 2020, for completion of Public Health Passenger Locator Forms by all arriving passengers into the State (excluding the exempt categories) came into effect on Thursday 28 May 2020. Any passenger refusing to complete the mandatory form at Dublin Airport is referred to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). To date, only 3 passengers at Dublin Airport have been referred to GNIB for refusing to complete a form.
From 28 April 2020 to 30 June 2020, almost 100% of passenger arrivals into both Dublin Airport and all other ports of entry nationwide who required telephone follow-up were contacted by BMU staff. However, since 1 July 2020, due to a rise in passenger numbers and the requirement to prioritise core immigration work at Dublin Airport, the BMU is not operationally positioned to continue follow-up calls at the rate conducted previously and now make a sample of follow-up calls for all ports of entry nationwide.
The BMU has new working arrangements in place in line with Public Health advice on managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the introduction of the Passenger Locator Form, every member of the Unit has been involved in their collection and checking for completeness.
The follow-up calls are made between the hours of 10am and 7pm. Up to 30 June 2020, dedicated teams were in place to undertake this work. A dedicated team of 8 staff has capacity to progress 960 calls in total covering Dublin Airport and other ports nationwide during the hours outlined.
Since 1 July 2020, given the increase in passenger numbers, it is no longer operationally feasible for the BMU to assign dedicated teams to the follow-up work. Therefore, all staff working between the hours of 10am and 7pm undertake the Passenger Locator Form follow-up work in addition to their operational immigration duties. This system involves a sample of forms being taken over a 24-hour period. The sample is then divided between available staff in the immigration booths who, in addition to immigrating passengers, review each form individually and segregate any exempt categories who do not require follow-up. Such exempt categories include passengers who are:
- Transiting to NI
- In the State for less than 2 days
- Completing forms unnecessarily
Two additional staff members are tasked with the collection, collation, sampling and storage of the forms during each shift, with a third staff member assigned to manage the Passenger Locator Form e-mail address. Staff members are generally Clerical Officer and Executive Officer grades.
It is expected that this Passenger Locator Form follow-up work will be transferred from the BMU on 10 August 2020. In the meantime, the Unit will continue to undertake this work and will support the roll-out of the Passenger Locator e-Form initiative.