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Despite school closures, Ireland sees boost in non-EU numbers

The number of non-European students going to Ireland over the last year has risen, according to new statistics released by Frances Fitzgerald, the Minister for Justice and Equality in Ireland.

Irish authorities plan to reform the immigration system include extending the use of e-gates at Dublin Airport and staffing the border with civilian officers. Photo: Dublin Airport

Minister Fitzgerald lauded reforms to the international education sector and the student immigration system introduced in direct response to the closures

A recently published review of immigration in Ireland in 2014 stated that nearly 49,500 non-EEA national students were given permission to study in Ireland for ELT and degree-level study between January and November last year representing a 3,700 student increase year on year.

Nearly 49,500 non-EEA national students were given permission to study in Ireland for ELT and degree-level study between January and November last year

The boost in numbers suggests that the country’s reputation hasn’t been tarnished despite a series of private English language school closures earlier last year.

Minister Fitzgerald lauded a government approved package of reforms to the international education sector and the student immigration system introduced in direct response to the closures, and evidence of immigration abuse in the education sector.

“These reforms are designed to provide certainty and clarity for international students coming to Ireland, to prioritise education over work, to give effect to an enhanced inspection and compliance regime and to further align the student migration system with the strategic objective,” the government said in a statement last month.

Minister Fitzgerald also hailed the management of an application backlog for citizenship to Ireland which, near the start of 2011, had reached approximately 22,000 applications that had been waiting for a decision for longer than six months.

Since then, over 90,000 applications have been decided on, and most of them have now seen a reduced processing time from 31 months to less than six.

Another improvement to immigration services put forward was the completion of the civilianisation of immigration functions at Dublin Airport this year. Currently being undertaken by An Garda Síochána (Irish national police force), the proposals will allow non-military personnel carry out immigration registration and front line immigration checks.

However it is not just the number of people seeking to study in Ireland that is rising; the number of people applying for visas for both short- and long- term stay has also gone up.

“In 2015, further ambitious reforms of the immigration system will be prioritised, including a new single procedure for the asylum system and completion of the civilianisation of border control at Dublin Airport”

Since 2013, figures have increased by 6%, bringing the number of entry visa applications up to around 101,500 for 2014.

India was the top nationality applying for visas, accounting for 17% of the applications. This was followed by Russia and China, accounting for 14% and 11% respectively.

In addition to looking at the last 12 months, the review also outlines the targets for the Immigration Service for the year ahead.

“In 2014, the total number of new applications for visas, residence and citizenship received by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department reached record levels,” said Minister Fitzgerald.

“In 2015, further ambitious reforms of the immigration system will be prioritised, including a new single procedure for the asylum system and completion of the civilianisation of border control at Dublin Airport.”

Other priorities for the year ahead include extending the use of e-gates at Dublin Airport, as well as a worldwide rollout of the British Irish Visa Scheme, which was recently extended to India.

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