I thank Deputies for raising this important topic. As Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, maintaining the security of our borders is always an absolute priority for me. I assure the Deputies that this matter is being taken very seriously by the Government and I thank them for providing me with the opportunity to update the House on it. Security at our airports and ports is always kept under review and rates very well by international standards but a breach of this nature is clearly unacceptable and, in this instance, is of very serious public concern.
As the Deputies will be aware and Deputy O'Callaghan noted, there is an ongoing Garda investigation targeted at illegal immigration and people-smuggling through Dublin Airport. A number of people are before the courts with regard to this matter so it would not be appropriate in those circumstances to comment in detail on the particular case. However, like Deputy O'Callaghan, I commend An Garda Síochána and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, on their work. An Garda Síochána considers this to be a smuggling operation rather than being terrorism or human trafficking-related. The issue remains very serious and we all know the enormous challenge, at national and European level, of trafficking of persons. It matches the drug trade in many ways in terms of criminal activity.
My Department has kept in close contact with the Department of Transport and both Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority are co-operating fully with the Garda investigation. The national civil aviation security committee, chaired by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and comprising representatives from other Departments, An Garda Síochána, airports and airlines, reviews and recommends effective security measures with a view to advising Government on aviation security policy. The national civil aviation security committee is reviewing all issues relevant to aviation security at Dublin Airport, particularly any issue relating to the access arrangements at the airport. We need to know how this happened and why. Therefore, in light of the seriousness of the issue, I will work with my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, to review the procedures in place so the public can have full confidence in the security of our borders.
I will put a couple of facts on the record. Immigration officers at Dublin Airport process approximately 15 million passengers per annum and approximately 3,300 were refused leave to land last year, with over 4,000 being refused across all ports of entry. Constant vigilance is required and it is by such vigilance that a case like this is uncovered and investigated. It is clear that this case has an international dimension and gardaí are co-operating with other police authorities, including Interpol and Europol, as we do all the time, with the investigation. An Garda Síochána and other independent analysts have pointed out that this is not a matter unique to Dublin Airport and that other international airports face the same risks, challenges and threats of illegal immigration. When it comes to border security, we must remain vigilant at all times. Where breaches are discovered, they must be thoroughly investigated and feed into a wider review of port security generally to identify where any improvements can be made.
To answer the Deputy's question, we are not aware of any other related matters and none have been brought to our attention. Significant resources are put into policing our borders, including increased use of technology and the area of data sharing with other jurisdictions. Since becoming Minister I have put much emphasis on the interoperability of data systems so our security can be maintained and the Government has put increased funding again this year into that issue. Last November, we took a major step forward in launching an automated connection to Interpol's lost and stolen travel documents database. In the first eight weeks of operating systematic checks against this database at Dublin Airport, over 700,000 documents were searched and a number of people were refused entry to Ireland on the basis of an alert on the system being triggered.