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Varadkar Challenged on Minister’s Remark About Travel Documents Being Flushed; McEntee Provides Figures

Dublin: Former Prime Minister and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has questioned the evidence behind Justice Minister Helen McEntee’s claim that numerous passengers have destroyed their passports and other international travel documents by flushing them down toilets upon entering Ireland’s airports.

Varadkar has called on Minister McEntee to substantiate her statement with evidence of passports or other international travel documents being discarded or destroyed in airport toilets.

Minister McEntee stated in a parliamentary response that the documents used for boarding the aircraft are often flawed, leading to their destruction by passengers to avoid checks upon disembarkation and at the borders. Varadkar’s query was whether there was any concrete evidence to support this claim.

In response, Minister McEntee highlighted that An Garda has prosecuted over 100 people this year for arriving without sufficient documentation. She also noted a 34% reduction in the number of people entering the country illegally last year, with a further decrease observed in the first quarter of 2024.

The Minister mentioned that the Department of Justice’s Border Management Unit (BMU) and the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) have been conducting special operations on board aircraft to prevent the entry of undocumented travellers.

Previously, in a reply to former Councillor TD McNamara, the government stated that entering the country without travel documents is a criminal offence, as outlined in Section 11 of the Immigration Act 2004, but this has yet to be enforced. McNamara had informed Minister O’Brien that in 2023, 3,285 people arrived at Dublin Airport without valid travel documents, compared to 4,968 in 2022. Despite these figures, hundreds of people are still entering Ireland without any documents.

Minister McEntee’s claims and Varadkar’s subsequent questioning underscore the ongoing challenges and scrutiny surrounding immigration and border control in Ireland.

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