Prison is no place for migrants and asylum seekers, states Nasc in ground-breaking new report

Tue, March 13, 2018

Immigration Detention & Border Control in Ireland 2018

Nasc are launching a ground-breaking report on immigration related detention and border control in Ireland, today Tuesday 13th March from 11am – 1pm in St Peters Cork. The report can be downloaded here.

The report is based on over two years of research, which included interviews with migrants and asylum seekers detained due to refusals of permission to enter the country (‘leave to land’), as well as those detained as protection applicants and pending deportation. The report takes as its starting point Mark Kelly’s seminal research on the area of immigration related detention in Ireland, which was first published in 2005.

13 years on from Mark Kelly’s research, Nasc’s new report explores the current situation from a legal and evidence-based perspective. We examine the two overlapping areas of immigration related detention and border control, in particular refusals of leave to land. What legal provisions exist to ensure people’s human rights are protected, and what is happening on the ground in Irish prisons, Garda stations and ports of entry for people being detained for immigration related reasons?

Guest speakers for the launch include: Mark Kelly, international human rights lawyer and author of Immigration Related Detention in Ireland (2005); Deirdre Malone, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT); and Karin Wieland, whose former au pair Paloma Aparezida Silva-Carvalho was detained last summer, after being refused leave to land at Dublin Airport when she arrived in Ireland to visit the Wieland family.

Highlighting the key findings from the report, Nasc CEO Fiona Finn states:

“Overall we found that not much had changed in the context of immigration related detention since 2005. However, while the numbers of people detained for immigration related reasons is relatively low in Ireland, and is in fact decreasing, the numbers of people refused leave to land and subsequently detained is on the rise. This is particularly worrying given the global humanitarian crisis and the record number of displaced people around the globe.”

“We need to ensure that people who are being refused leave to land are being given every opportunity to access the asylum process if that is what they require, and that Ireland is not at risk of violating its international obligations of non-refoulement in returning people to their place of origin, if that country is unsafe.”

“We also need to ensure that those who are being detained are not having their human rights infringed, particularly at ports of entry and in Garda stations, where our research showed that detainees were often left in situations without access to their mobile phones, access to a solicitor or information about the asylum process, access to medical treatment; or access to interpreter services to understand fully what was happening to them,” finishes Ms. Finn.

Mark Kelly, who also wrote the foreword for the new report, states:

“This report makes a much-needed contribution to our current knowledge about immigration-related detention in Ireland, once again highlighting significant gaps between principles and practice. It should be read as a clarion call to civil society organisations, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and agencies of the state to take concerted action to ensure that Ireland’s immigration-related detention practices will finally meet its international human rights obligations.”

Deirdre Malone states:

“Ireland signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in 2007, but over a decade later have yet to ratify it. OPCAT introduces a comprehensive system of national and international monitoring of places of detention with a view to preventing all forms of ill-treatment. Given the State’s commitment to build a specific immigration detention facility in Dublin Airport, and given the findings in this report, it is ever more urgent that Ireland immediately ratify the OPCAT, to assist the State in preventing ill-treatment in places of detention.”

Karin Wieland states:

“When we knowingly omit basic measures to maintain human dignity, we are not only stripping someone of their clothes, but are actively participating in the withdrawal of what it means to be a loved and valued member of our world community. This is both shaming and deeply traumatic. Ireland has a long history of hiding and silencing the voices of those most vulnerable in our society. It is time to use this country’s phenomenal aptitude for community spirit and change to bring about much needed policy changes surrounding detainment in Ireland.”

Given that very little has changed since 2005 for those most affected by immigration related detention and refusals of leave to land, Nasc is calling on the Government to:

  • Implement the recommendations made by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) in their reports on Ireland;
  • Ensure that people who are refused leave to land and/or detained for immigration related reasons have access to basic rights and legal safeguards, such as: 1) The right not to be held incommunicado; 2) Access to interpreter services; 3) Access to a lawyer; 4) Access to information on rights and reasons for a decision to detain; 5) Access to medical treatment;
  • Ensure that detention is used only as an absolute last resort in immigration related cases and in cases of refusals of permission to enter the State, and that alternatives to detention are utilised; In particular, ensure that Ireland continues its current practice of not detaining minors;
  • Establish an appeals mechanism for refusals of leave to land, that provides some measure of transparency and accountability in decision making at ports of entry
  • Ensure that there is proper data collection on immigration related detention and refusal of leave to land, and transparent dissemination of that data;
  • Ensure that the new detention facility proposed for Dublin Airport is in line with international best practice and is not in any way penal or punitive; and that people’s access to justice and rights are being promoted and respected.
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), to assist the State in preventing ill-treatment in places of detention.


The report can be downloaded here.

The research for this report was interdisciplinary and combined both quantitative and qualitative methods. The quantitative research was primarily desk research, and included an examination of relevant research and domestic and international legislation and case law, as well as collection of statistics on numbers of people detained from a variety of sources. The qualitative research consisted of semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in the immigration and asylum field, as well as 10 interviews with male immigration detainees at Cloverhill prison, Dublin conducted in 2015. To supplement these detainee interviews, four additional interviews were carried out in late 2016 and 2017 with Nasc clients who had experienced detention. One further interview was carried out with an individual detained at Cork Airport, and with Ms. Karin Wieland, member of the family for whom Ms. Aparezida Silva-Carvalho, the Brazilian woman detained in July 2017, formerly worked as an au pair.