back to the Immigration Detention Monitor

26 November 2020 – Ireland

Dublin Live, “Coronavirus Ireland: Covid-19 Outbreak Fear at Dublin Prison as New Prisoner Struck with Virus,” 12 September 2020,
Dublin Live, “Coronavirus Ireland: Covid-19 Outbreak Fear at Dublin Prison as New Prisoner Struck with Virus,” 12 September 2020,

In late November, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture released a report about its monitoring visit to Ireland in 2019. In the report, the committee reiterates its long-standing calls for Irish authorities to cease the use of prisons for immigration detention, noting that “a prison is by definition not a suitable place in which to detain someone who is neither suspected nor convicted of a criminal offence.” The committee reports that it met with several immigration detainees who had experienced bullying and abuse from other prisoners. It pointed, for example, to the case of a “middle-aged diminutive foreign national was placed in a cell with two young remand prisoners who allegedly attempted to rape him as well as physically aggressed and verbally intimidated him.”

In the GDP’s most recent country profile on Ireland, published in August 2019, we reported that a dedicated detention facility was slated to open at Dublin Airport in late 2019. The profile noted concerns that such a facility could lead to more detention in the country. Media reports indicate that as of August 2020, this facility had yet to open. The CPT, however, reports that by the time of its visit to Ireland in September-October 2019, a new Garda (Police) Station had opened at the airport (with four cells and two holding rooms), which could detain non-citizens for a maximum of 24 hours. Prisons, however, continue to detain immigration detainees for longer periods. As a result, the CPT reiterated its call, which it has been repeating since at least 2006, for authorities to establish a dedicated immigration detention facility. The CPT suggested the use of a disused unit at Cloverhill Prison (F Block) where detainees could be offered a more open regime, and greater access to the telephone and unscreened visits.

The latest CPT report on Ireland arrived at a time of increased concern about the spread of COVID-19 in prisons that are used to hold immigraiotn detainees. In Cloverhill Prison, three inmates are known to have contracted the virus, while five prisoners in Midlands Prison were reported to have tested positive as of 30 October. Both the Cloverhill and Midlands prisons are used to confine migrants and asylum seekers.

During the pandemic, the country’s Refugee Protection Programme–a scheme designed to relocate up to 2,900 refugees to the country via resettlement and community sponsorship between 2020 and 2023–was temporarily suspended due to travel restrictions. However, the suspension in Ireland appears to have been lifted, with several groups of refugees reported to have been flown to the country since the summer. Most recently on 19 November, 160 Syrians (including 90 children) were transported to Ireland on an IOM chartered flight.

(Ireland has not been alone in the suspension of its resettlement scheme: on 19 November, UNHCR warned that 2020 will be a record low for resettlement. According to the agency’s data, 15,425 persons were resettled worldwide between January and the end of October, compared to 50,086 during the same period in 2019.)