Ireland has temporarily suspended visa-free travel for refugees traveling to the Republic from safe European countries. The temporary suspension will last 12 months, and does not include Ukrainians.
Ireland has decided to temporarily suspend its operation of the 1959 Council of Europe agreement, which allows visa-free travel for refugees, who have been granted protection in other European countries. Ukrainians are exempted from the temporary suspension.
Normally, countries within the EU, which are signatories to the Council of Europe Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees, have to allow visa-free travel for holders of refugee travel documents. It allows holders of these travel documents to enter a signatory country for a maximum of three months without a visa or prior clearance.
At the moment, the visa exemption applies to holders of a Convention Travel Document issued by Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, as stated in the Irish government press release.
Change starts on July 19
The suspension came into effect at noon on Tuesday, 19 July. However, for Ukrainian nationals, who are also subject to a special visa-free travel arrangement within the block, free travel is still available.
The Irish government said the move was intended to "protect integrity of immigration and International Protection Systems." It said its International Protection Office had been "receiving applications from some people who already have granted refugee status by other states."
When a person applies for international protection, your fingerprints are checked on the Eurodac database. This tells a country if someone has already applied for this status elsewhere. The Irish press release said that between January 2021 and January 2022, their International Protection Office received "760 notifications on the basis that the person was [already] a beneficiary of international protection in another state."
System open to 'exploitation'
Of these 760 notifications, 479 -- or 63% -- had their protection status already granted in other EU Member States. Those 479 applications accounted for 7% of the overall applications for international protection in Ireland in that period, said the press release.
If you have been granted refugee status in another European country and would like to travel to Ireland, you can apply for a visa in order to do so.
Ireland's Minister of Justice, Helen McEntee, said that the government had not taken this decision lightly. However, she said there "is evidence that there may be abuse of such systems, [and so] the government must act swiftly to mitigate the risks to maintain the integrity of our immigration and international protection systems and uphold public confidence in those systems."
McEntee added that some had been exploiting the system. She said the suspension was "temporary and will be reviewed in a year's time."
The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney added that Ireland's decision "will assist in the protection of Ukrainians, and those of other nationalities, who are fleeing conflict, as it will lessen the incidence of abuse of this system."
Run out of beds
Minster Coveney added that Ireland's decision was not "unprecedented" and that "other Council of Europe member states have taken similar action previously."
The news magazine Politico reported that the Irish government had come to its decision after it had reportedly run out of beds for Ukrainian arrivals because they "were being taken by refugees from other nations."
As a result, wrote Politico, "hundreds of Ukrainians, mostly women and children, who have landed in Ireland since Thursday have ended up sleeping on the floor of a disused Dublin Airport building."
On Tuesday, these people are expected to be rehoused in an Irish army-errected "tent village" north of the capital Dublin, reported Politico.
According to Politico, some of the increase in people coming to Ireland is because of the UK's threats to send people to Rwanda. However, it pointed out that this does not directly affect people traveling directly from the UK, as Britain and Ireland have a visa-free travel agreement in place already anyway.