Statement - Refugee Travel restrictions are Knee-Jerk Reaction

July 19, 2022
Family hugging

….disproportionate, regressive, and retrograde action that brings into question the government’s commitment to honouring Ireland’s International Protection obligations

Government move on refugee travel is knee-jerk reaction


Refugee and migrant support organisation Doras is extremely concerned about the government’s decision to suspend the operation of the Council of Europe Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees (Council of Europe).

Speaking on the decision, Doras CEO John Lannon says:

“This is a disproportionate, regressive, and retrograde action that brings into question the government’s commitment to honouring Ireland’s International Protection obligations. It appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to a different problem, which is the shortage of accommodation for people who need protection in Ireland. It does nothing to tackle the deeper problems and pressures facing the International Protection system which urgently needs an overhaul and has done for many years.

The Minister talks about protecting the integrity of the International Protection system but she hasn’t elaborated on what she means by that. This isn’t clear and it’s simply not good enough to make such a dramatic change without providing a clear rationale for why it might be warranted. The system needs to be upgraded, not downgraded. Asylum seekers need greater protections, not less, and Ireland still has a long way to go in that regard. 

The reality is that the Council of Europe agreement only relates to a very small percentage of international protection applications. However, it is an important mechanism for families displaced by war to be able to stay connected within Europe. Suspending the agreement’s operation means that people who are at risk in other European countries may not be able to avail of their right to apply for protection here. It has the potential to cause serious problems for the family reunification process, which is so important. Furthermore, the Minister says this measure is temporary but we know all too well that once certain decisions are made, they often aren’t revisited.

While this measure won’t apply to people from Ukraine, it does compound the unequal treatment of people fleeing wars and persecution from different parts of the world. Suspending this agreement sends the wrong signal on migration policy and will undoubtedly further add to the huge obstacles faced by refugee families. It also puts into question the basic EU principle of free movement. We simply can’t stand by silently and watch the erosion of people’s rights, especially those who already have been through so much”.

Audio (5 minutes): John Lannon from Doras on RTÉ Morning Ireland 

The UN says over 1.7 million refugees have now fled the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. To date, it is estimated that approximately 2000 refugees have arrived in Ireland, while government figures suggest that number could rise to anywhere between 8,000 to 100,000. Limerick-based national migrant and refugee support organisation Doras says that while it’s still too early to get a full picture, they are currently experiencing a huge level of interest from Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in the mid west and throughout the country.

Doras CEO John Lannon says the charity is experiencing an extremely high level of interest in its services.