Deportation system 'highly litigious' and flights 'financially burdensome' – department

Deportation System 'Highly Litigious' And Flights 'Financially Burdensome' – Department
In a briefing document for Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, the Department of Justice said only one out of every four cases selected for deportation is likely to be successful. Photo: PA Images
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Ken Foxe

The Department of Justice described the State’s deportation system as “highly litigious”, with one asylum seeker having to be flown back to Dublin after injunction proceedings began while they were airborne.

A briefing for Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that, as a rule of thumb, only one out of every four cases selected for deportation is likely to be successful.


The department said charter flights for deportations – which the State is planning to resume – were “financially burdensome”, with a high risk the aircraft would depart Ireland “with a much lower passenger contingent than desired due to legal challenges”.

The briefing for Ms McEntee, which was created ahead of a meeting of the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council last autumn, said each charter flight was likely to cost in the region of €350,000 for a long-haul trip.

“Actual deportations are carried out as a measure of last resort when the persons concerned have not removed themselves from the State or engaged with the International Office for Migration (IOM) to avail of assisted voluntary return measures,” the department added.

The briefing said Ireland was not a member of Frontex, the EU agency for border management, and therefore its charter aircraft would not land in Dublin.


It said Ireland could fly failed international protection applicants to a city in Europe where a Frontex flight was leaving, but that realistically Ireland required its own means for larger-scale deportation operations.

Legal challenges

The document also spoke of how the deportation process was “highly litigious”, and legal challenges could and were being made right up until the point the person departs the State.

“In one case this year, an individual secured injunction proceedings as his plane departed and the state was required to fly him back,” the briefing document stated.

It said there were also difficulties in getting cooperation from “receiving states”, that is the country to which a deportee was being returned.


It cited a long list of nations where there were such problems, including Nigeria, Russia, Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt.

“Reasons vary, including pandemic related issues, dysfunctional administrative capacities, and outright unwillingness to cooperate.”

Ms McEntee was told this was forcing a rethink at EU level on whether the deportation process was an adequate solution to returning individuals to their country of origin.

“The main difficulty Ireland experiences is in securing travel documents so that individuals can be permitted on flights and removed. It is the case that some embassies can be slow to cooperate,” the document explained.


It said so-called “voluntary return” seemed to be a more straightforward alternative and that assistance and resettlement grants were offered as “an enticement to engage with the process”.


The briefing also provided figures on how deportation had been ramped up following Covid-19.

With a moratorium in place due to the pandemic, there were just 33 deportation orders signed and 38 carried out in 2021.

By 2022, that rose to 528 signed and 118 removals, while in the first 10 months of last year, there were 713 orders signed off and 57 deportations carried out.

In 2022, 20 deportations were to Nigeria, 18 to Pakistan, 14 to Albania, and 13 to Georgia.

Of the deportations that took place up to the end of October last year, eight were to South Africa, seven each to Brazil and Georgia, and six to Pakistan.

Asked about the records, a spokesperson for the department said: “Working to ensure that an effective returns process is in place is a key focus in discussions on migration management at EU level.

“As the notes set out, deportations and assisted returns programs form an important part of the immigration system in Ireland, and their role is set to continue to grow in line with the expansion in processing of international protection applications.”

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