Immigrant support group Nasc said it was deeply concerned at the developments and warned that Ireland must not “go low” in following America’s lead in border control targeting mainly Muslim countries.
Figures provided by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald to Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O’Loughlin show that almost 70 applications for family reunification visas from seven conflict countries have been denied from 2016 to mid-February 2017.
The ‘join family visas’ are sought to allow people resident here to apply for visas to allow family members still in conflict zones to come to Ireland. Of the 68 such visas requests turned down by the State, 26 involved family members in Syria and 18 from Iraq.
Data on EU Treaty Rights show that 35 visa applications from the seven countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen) have been refused since 2016, with 18 from Iraq and six from Syria.
Almost 3,000 further applications under EU Treaty Rights are undecided for six months, 2,671 from Afghanistan and 893 from Iraq.
“Nasc has provided support to several Syrian families currently residing or naturalised in Ireland in their applications for family reunification visas, including ‘join family’ and ‘EU Treaty Rights’ which have been subsequently refused or remain undecided,” said Nasc legal services manager Fiona Hurley.
“These include applications for elderly parents and women and children trying to join their families in Ireland. Given the horrific conditions in Syria, we are deeply concerned for the safety of our clients’ family members.”
Ms Hurley said the Irish Refugee Protection Programme cannot be the only response by the Government.
“Given current anti-Muslim trends globally and the attempted introduction of extreme border controls in the United States in recent weeks, we must be especially vigilant in ensuring that Ireland does not ‘go low’ in following America’s lead in this regard,” she said.
Other figures show 226 people from seven troubled countries were refused leave to enter the country in 2016: Syria (37), Sudan (47), Somalia (53), Iran (46), Iraq (26), Libya (10), and Yemen (7).
Nasc’s Jennifer DeWan said they were “highly concerned” at these numbers, saying the group had long pushed for transparency about this process.
“We would be particularly concerned that there may be a significant number of those refusals who are not being given an opportunity to claim asylum,” she said.
The Department of Justice said that for the seven countries concerned, the grant rate for join family and related visas categories was approximately 90%.
It said: “Ireland has not imposed nor has any plans to impose a ban or restriction on people from Muslim majority countries to Ireland.”
It said there were around 10,000 visa applications under EU Treaty [for] free movement, which were in the main UK citizens applying to bring relatives in.
“The massive increase in applications has raised serious concerns regarding the abuse of free movement and of the Common Travel Area with the UK,” it said.
It said refusals at port of entry only take place where the person has attempted to enter the State illegally.