Ireland cracks down on refugee admissions amidst Ukrainian influx
Ireland will suspend visa-free travel for migrants entering the country from 20 European countries deemed “safe.” The decision comes as the state struggles to accommodate a wave of Ukrainian refugees, which it says it has no intention to limit.
The Irish government announced on Monday that it would withdraw from the Council of Europe Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees for the next 12 months. The document allows refugees who have already sought protection in 20 European nations – including Belgium, Germany, Hungary, and Poland – to enter any other country on the list for up to three months without a visa.
Irish Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that the agreement was “being exploited,” and that some refugees “enter the state and subsequently claim international protection, despite having already been granted such protection by another European state.”
The announcement came several days after Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said that Ireland had run out of space for Ukrainian refugees, after taking in more than 40,000 since February. Martin said that 70% of the occupants of one repurposed hotel in Dublin – converted to house some 2,300 of these arrivals – were not Ukrainian, but asylum seekers from other countries.
By making it more difficult for asylum seekers to exploit the system, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Monday that suspending visa-free travel for others would “assist in the protection of Ukrainians.”
Despite the lack of space, the Irish government will keep taking in more Ukrainians. “We don’t have any plans to limit numbers,” Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said last week. Claiming that Ireland may see 100,000 people arriving this year from Ukraine and elsewhere, Varadkar said that “we’re going to have to pull out all of the stops to try and provide additional accommodation and do everything we can.”
The first 150 'overflow' refugees were moved into a tent city at an army camp outside the capital Dublin, on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters last Friday, Varadkar said that more such facilities would be opened in the coming weeks and months.
“Gormanston isn’t the only army camp, there will be other camps we have planned,” Varadkar said. “Bear in mind while we’re struggling with 40,000 people who have come from Ukraine, Poland has two million … we’re really taking our fair share and maybe not really quite that.”
According to a recent poll, some 84% of Irish people think “there is a limit” on the number of refugees Ireland can handle, while 60% said they are concerned that “too many asylum seekers and refugees might come to Ireland.”