Ireland has suspended visa-free travel for refugees coming from many countries in Europe in a bid to shelter Ukrainians. The announcement comes after Ireland, already hosting more than 43,000 Ukrainians, ran out of beds set aside for new Ukrainian arrivals because they were being taken by refugees from other countries.
Therefore, hundreds of Ukrainians, mostly women and children, who have landed in Ireland since Thursday have ended up sleeping on the floor of Dublin Airport and, starting Tuesday, will be housed at an Irish army-erected tent village.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said: “Where there is evidence that there may be abuse of such systems, the Government must act swiftly to mitigate the risks to maintain the integrity of our immigration and international protection systems and uphold public confidence in those systems,”
“In recent months, we have seen that the visa exemption provided for in the Council of Europe Agreement is being exploited, including by some who enter the state and subsequently claim international protection, despite having already been granted such protection by another European state.”
“The suspension of the operation of the agreement is temporary and will be reviewed in a year’s time. In the meantime, Convention travel document holders who want to travel to Ireland can apply for a visa under standard visa arrangements.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney continued the statement with: “The decision taken today will assist in the protection of Ukrainians, and those of other nationalities, who are fleeing conflict, as it will lessen the incidence of abuse of this system. This step is not unprecedented: other Council of Europe member states have taken similar action previously.”
“We will keep this decision, which is temporary in nature, under review, and will revisit it 12 months from now.”
Visa-free travel will remain available for Ukrainian nationals but refugees travelling from safe European countries will be required to hold visas from Tuesday.