THE TAXPAYER HAS paid out almost 2.2 million on deportation flights over the past three years.
However, expenditure on such transport more than halved last year with the number of failed asylum seekers or illegal immigrants removed from Ireland dramatically down.
Figures from the Department of Justice show that there were 601 deportations effected in the period between 2018 and 2020.
The figure for 2019 was 298 but that fell sharply last year to just 140 as the department eased back on such operations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Expenditure on deportation flights exceeded 1 million in 2019 but fell to just 418,783 last year, according to figures released under FOI.
The department said that almost a quarter of the 601 deportations during the past three years involved citizens of Pakistan with 142 individuals deported.
The next largest group was from Nigeria at 75, followed by China with 63, and Albania at 51.
Rounding out the top ten countries of origin were Brazil (40), Georgia (31), Bangladesh (27), India (24), Algeria (12), and South Africa (12).
The remaining 124 individual deportees came from dozens of other countries around the world.
Deportations took place through commercial flights, chartered flights, or through the EU border management agency Frontex.
The department said they did not keep a log of the number of deportations, which had taken place as part of EU arrangements through Frontex.
Ireland does not make a financial contribution to Frontex for the purposes of Joint Return Operations, it said.
When Ireland organises a Joint Return Operation, other member states can be invited to participate.
The Department of Justice said that not all of the 601 listed deportations were forcible removals and that the figures included cases where individuals left voluntarily on foot of a deportation order.
It said that the only deportations that had been enforced during the pandemic were ones where individuals were a threat to national security, or where their presence in Ireland was deemed contrary to the public interest.
A spokesperson said a variety of issues were considered as part of the process for granting permission to remain in Ireland including humanitarian factors, employment records, and other elements.
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They said: Each case is examined in detail on its individual merits, taking all factors into account.
The permission to remain process includes a full consideration of [a persons] private and family rights in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights as well as consideration of their work situation, among other issues.
When a person is refused permission to stay in Ireland, they are contacted and asked if they wish to accept the option of voluntary return.
In those cases, the department provides assistance to help people travel home and the person involved retains the right to enter Ireland at a later date.
The spokesperson said: They may also avail of assistance from the International Organisation for Migration in obtaining travel documentation as well as covering the financial costs of travelling to their country of origin.
Voluntary return is actively encouraged by the department instead of deportation and individuals are given time to make arrangements for leaving Ireland.
The spokesperson added: For the duration of Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions, the Minister asked her officials to review the issuing of [refusal] letters and no refusal letters, or letters enclosing a deportation order, have issued to anyone in the international protection process since.

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