Thursday, 26 February 2004

Questions (30)

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

26 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons deported broken down by gender and nationality in respect of the mass deportations that took place on 12 February 2004; the number of such persons who were under 18 years of age; if he has satisfied himself that all those deported had access to legal advice in advance of the orders being executed; the number of gardaí involved in the operation; the cost to the Exchequer in terms of the cost of chartering the plane and the number of Garda hours involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6252/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

A charter flight from Dublin travelled to Moldova via Romania on 12 February 2004 to facilitate the removal of 13 Moldovan and 53 Romanian nationals. Included in this group were two Romanian nationals who were voluntarily repatriating to their country of origin. On the flight were ten persons under the age of 18, including two Irish born children accompanied by their Romanian parents.

The breakdown of those returned was as follows:

Country

Males

Females

Female children(under 18)

Male children(under 18)

Romania

37

6

4

6

Moldova

9

4

Nil

Nil

Some 35 members of the Garda Síochána were involved and 385 Garda hours were expended in the operation. The aeroplane used was a Boeing 757 and was chartered at a cost of €93,600.

Aircraft charter is an internationally recognised mechanism for ensuring the safe and effective deportation of persons to their countries of origin and most EU countries use such charter flights. In evaluating the cost of a charter flight for the purpose of deporting persons to their country of origin, the cost of the continued presence of persons who are the subject of deportation orders in the State has to be taken into account. These costs include social welfare costs, direct provision costs, and detention costs in certain cases. Although not a factor in this instance, the use of chartered flights is also the only viable option in cases where there is disruptive behaviour of the persons being deported or there are other genuine concerns of the airlines who have to look after passenger safety.

It is misleading to characterise the operation that took place as a mass deportation, that term implying that individual consideration of cases had not taken place. In this respect and in regard to access to legal advice, it should be made clear that deportation orders issue only following an exhaustive procedure set out in the Immigration Act 1999. Under section 3 of that Act persons whom the Minister proposes to deport must be so notified and be given the options to make representations within 15 working days setting out the reasons they should be not be deported; leave the State before the order was made; or consent to the making of a deportation order. Before making a deportation order the Minister must take account of criteria specified in section 3(6) of that Act and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (Prohibition of Refoulement). At any point in this process a person may seek legal advice. Further, in most cases deportations are proposed when the person concerned has failed to be granted refugee status and throughout the asylum process legal advice is available, including from the Refugee Legal Service.