Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Justice and Equality
485. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the steps she is taking to address the unsuitable detention of immigration detainees in prisons and the need for a specifically designed centre for immigration detainees with specific immigration rules in accordance with the Committee’s requirements as outlined in the Council of Europe anti-torture committee’s 7th periodic visit report on Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [62820/21]
It is important to state that detention for immigration reasons only arises when all other possible options have been considered.
In the case of persons refused leave to land to enter the State, arrangements are madeby the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) to return them to their point of embarkation at the earliest opportunity, which may take a number of days.
Arrangements for the removal of persons refused permission to enter the State are essentially operational matters for GNIB who work closely with civilian immigration officers on these matters. Detention of a person refused entry to the State is only undertaken as a last resort. There is a statutory obligation to return a person refused entry permission as soon as is practicable. Non-custodial measures, such as a requirement to report to a Garda Síochána station or a requirement to reside in a specified place, are widely used as alternatives to detention.
Section 5 of the Immigration Act, 2003 (as amended by the International protection Act, 2015) contains the main provisions dealing with the removal from the State of persons refused permission to enter.
It specifies that a person to whom this section applies may be arrested by an immigration officer or a member of the Garda Síochána and detained in a prescribed place of detention for the purpose of facilitating their removal from the State, which must be as soon as is practicable. It also provides that a person may be detained for a period not exceeding 12 hours at the airport or port from which the person is due to depart.
Work has been completed on a new Block F in Cloverhill remand prison which is intended to be used to accommodate people detained for immigration purposes and ensure they can be housed separately from people on remand. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic required significant measures within the Irish Prison Service (IPS) to manage and control infection risk, and it was necessary to re-purpose Block F as an isolation unit for those prisoners who have, or are suspected of having, the virus. It is intended that when the pandemic is over, Block F will revert to its original intended use, subject to the availability of staff and the impact on resources. While this will address the situation in the immediate term, work is also proceeding on the consideration of a longer-term sustainable and compliant solution.
The former Transaer building at Dublin airport has been refitted and now contains the new Dublin Airport Garda station and additional office facilities occupied by GNIB. GNIB took up residence in the office facility in July 2019 and the local Gardaí moved into the new Garda Station in December 2019. The Garda station contains four single person cells and two additional detention rooms. While the building works have completed, the cells have not been fully commissioned at this time and outstanding matters are being addressed by the authorities.
It is intended that GNIB will detain persons refused leave to land, overnight at the Dublin Airport Garda station when the detention facilities are fully commissioned.
The Justice Plan 2021 contains a commitment to review the policy of holding immigration detainees in prisons. Work is continuing to complete this action.