New migration and asylum measures introduced in response to COVID-19

19 Jun 2020

Recent developments 

Department of Justice and Equality FAQ Document

On 17th June, the Immigration Service Delivery updated its FAQ document on the ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Immigration and International Protection’ explaining the most recent updates to asylum and migration services in Ireland.

Immigration registration and permissions

As part of the Department’s emergency response to COVID-19, Burgh Quay and all local registration offices are currently closed and will be until further notice. All existing appointments are cancelled. The requirement to register an immigration permission will not arise until Burgh Quay (and other registration offices) re-opens or alternative arrangements are put in place.

A change to immigration permission of current “Stamp 3” holders who respond to and qualify under the HSE’s “Be on Call for Ireland” campaign will be considered.

On 21st May, Immigration Service Delivery announced that, as a temporary measure, anyone in the State awaiting their first registration, and who has a current, valid permission to remain, but does not have a current permission letter, can apply to the Registration Office to request a letter confirming their permission to remain in the State and the conditions attached.

Visas

Effective March 20th, Immigration Service Delivery temporarily ceased accepting visa applications. While it is still possible to apply for an Irish visa online in the normal way, temporary measures mean that applicants will not be able to complete their application process. However, certain priority/emergency cases will continue to be processed and can be applied for online in the normal way. Visa applications made online continue to be valid and will be processed once COVID-19 related restrictions are lifted. Visa appeals can be submitted but due to current restrictions, capacity to process appeals is significantly reduced. All re-entry visa application processing has been suspended.

International protection applicants

All substantive interviews at the International Protection Office have been postponed until further notice. The International Protection Office will provide a limited service to new applicants only, until further notice.

Temporary Residence Certificate (TRC) Renewal Appointments and call-backs are suspended up to and including 20 July. Applicants whose TRCs are due for renewal between 27 March and 20 July will automatically be issued a new card.

All International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) hearings remain postponed until further notice. Since the week starting 25th May, IPAT resumed the issuing of decisions, however, due to the current restrictions, staff presence must be limited.

Contingency arrangements have been put in place for residents of the accommodation system for protection applicants. A dedicated team has been put in place in the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) unit of the Department of Justice and Equality, in collaboration with the HSE, to manage COVID-19 in accommodation centres. Actions include the provision of public health advice, including translations, to all accommodation centres and moving residents from emergency accommodation to dedicated accommodation centres.

On 23rd April, the Department of Justice and Equality and the HSE issued a joint statement on the measures to protect direct provision residents during the COVID-19 crisis. The statement explained that a range of measures have been put in place to address any cases of COVID-19 in direct provision centres if and when they arise. These measures include the provision of self-isolation facilities within centres as well as of a number of offsite self-isolation centres across the country. When a resident is suspected or confirmed to have the virus, where advised by Public Health, they will be moved to a dedicated off-site self-isolation facility. This is the established procedure across all centres. In early April, the Department of Justice and Equality announced that three new self-isolation facilities with 200 beds had been secured for Direct Provision as part of the emergency response to the pandemic.

On 26th May, the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, which was established in May 2020 to consider and take evidence on the State’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, discussed direct provision centres with officials from the Department of Justice and Equality and from the HSE. The transcript of the meeting is available here and video of proceedings is available here.

On 5th June, the Department of Justice and Equality announced its intention to conduct an internal review, in collaboration with the HSE, of its action taken on direct provision in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, to inform action taken in any subsequent phases.

Employment permits

Employment permits held by Stamp 1 holders continue to be valid and will be extended if necessary in line with the notice that immigration permissions due to expire between 20 March and 20th July 2020 are automatically extended for two months. This includes people in Ireland on short stay visas and those whose permissions have already been extended by the previous notice issued on 20th March 2020. The renewal of permission is on the same basis as the existing permission and the same conditions apply. Temporary arrangements allowing for electronic copies (PDF) of permits to be issued by e-mail have been put in place. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation’s contingency plan outlines how the Employment Permit system will continue to operate in all scenarios.

International students

Non-EU “Stamp 2” holder students who lost their employment due to COVID-19 can apply to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Furthermore, Immigration Service Delivery has introduced temporary arrangements for all non-EEA nationals who currently hold Stamp 2 permission and who wish to avail of the Third Level Graduate Programme, including students who have returned to their home countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a temporary measure, applications for the Graduate Programme can be submitted electronically to the Registration Office. This temporary measure will be kept under review in light of the restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and may be amended or withdrawn, in whole or in part, when considered appropriate to do so, but regardless will cease to apply no later than 30 September 2020.

On 26th May, the Department of Justice announced further measures to assist international students studying English in Ireland who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students who left the State before completion of their studies due to COVID-19 may return and resume their studies and the duration of their absence will not count towards the 2 years maximum period of English language study allowed. Language students with a current, valid permission who are still in the State and who have completed the maximum 2 years permitted as a language student, but due to COVID-19 are unable to return home, may remain as students until the end of the year provided they re-enroll in an online course of study for the remainder of the year.

EU Treaty Rights

The EU Treaty Rights Division will continue to receive new residence card applications and is processing applications for residence cards and requests for review. As a temporary measure, until 20th July, the EU Treaty Rights Division will allow in-country residence card applications or requests for review to be submitted by email. Some emergency applications, including healthcare professionals, may be prioritised in the current situation.

Return

Voluntary return applications are currently not being processed. However, interest in voluntary returns will be recorded.

Undocumented migrants

The Department of Justice and Equality confirmed that it does not and will not seek any information from an immigration perspective from either the Department of Employment and Social Protection or the HSE for persons coming forward for social supports or medical attention. Any undocumented migrant should not hesitate about coming forward to access health care or social supports during the COVID-19 crisis.

Information sources

For more information, see:

Information regarding the Justice Sector COVID-19 plans

Information regarding Immigration Service Delivery and the FAQ

Information regarding International Accommodation Protection Centres

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *