By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — As Ireland’s Department of Justice gears up to deport thousands of illegal immigrants, a Garda unit has been established with powers to arrest deportees, with officers are to be based in London and Paris in an effort to stem the increasing numbers of people arriving.
Minister John O’Donoghue has also signed a re-admission agreement with Romania to facilitate the deportation of thousands of Romanian immigrants refused asylum status under the terms of the 1951 Geneva Convention.
It marks the first time Ireland has signed such an agreement with another country.
Agreed in Bucharest last week with Interior Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu, the accord will involve two Romanian police officers on permanent assignment to liase with the new Garda National Bureau for Immigration.
Bilateral agreements in relation to combating organized crime, including drugs and trafficking in illegal immigrants, are also being negotiated.
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The cabinet gave the all-clear at its meeting last week to set up the new Garda unit, headed by a detective chief superintendent. It will be assigned 37 officers and have responsibility for existing personnel on immigration duties at border crossings, ports and airports.
The NBI will monitor non-nationals being deported and will have powers to detain a deportee as the expulsion order is being served.
The Justice Department said the current system of giving three days’ notice of deportation resulted in many of those involved vanishing.
The NBI will oversee a non-national registration service that will involve the fingerprinting of asylum seekers.
On the stationing of gardai in London and Paris, the spokesman said, "As the vast majority if asylum seekers arrive in the State via the UK or France, the government recognizes that a strengthening of international liaison with those countries in particular will be important in identifying immigration trends and other immigration-related activities."
Romanians are the largest single ethnic community among the arriving asylum seekers, but so far they have had the lowest success rate in being granted permission to stay.
Justice Department officials said that of the 7,724 asylum applications received last year, 2,226 were Romanians.
So far this year, another 1,150 Romanians arrived, bringing the number since 1992 to about 5,500.
Of the 998 Romanians who arrived in 1998, just three applicants were granted asylum at the first stage of the legal process and another 43 were successful on appeal.
There is a huge backlog of asylum applications, but the general rate of success of other ethnic groups is about one in four.
"The Minister will be returning to government at a very early stage with detailed proposals on the intensification of the deportation process and a further acceleration of asylum processing," a Justice Department spokesman said.