Proving the identity of migrants can be a difficult part of the migration process in Ireland

Some non-EU migrants can struggle to prove their identity, which presents difficulties for Irish authorities who are often required to verify a migrant’s identity multiple times in the migration process. Establishing identity is necessary to facilitate entry into Ireland, grant residency or to return migrants to their country of origin following a rejected asylum application.

New ESRI research published today (6 December) is the first study of its kind examining Ireland’s migration-related procedures and systems that are designed to answer the questions: ‘Who is this person?’ and ‘Is this person who they say they are?’

Struggles to prove identity

Failure to verify identity can lead to rejection of a migrant’s application for a visa or for residency in Ireland. Without adequate documentation, Irish authorities may face difficulties returning an asylum seeker whose application is rejected.

There are multiple reasons a migrant may struggle to produce documentation that verifies their identity:

  • weak administration systems in the country of issue;
  • translation problems;
  • passports that are not machine-readable and may therefore raise questions about document authenticity;
  • passports that are not electronic, or chip enabled, and therefore cannot be checked against various national and international databases, or Interpol’s Lost and Stolen Passport database.

Complex process

The involvement of several Irish authorities is required in the process to establish identity, which takes place multiple times in the migration process.

  • Some migrants require a visa before arriving to Ireland. At this stage, documentation is checked and fingerprints are taken.
  • When a migrant arrives in Ireland, immigration officers check the consistency of the information provided and may check immigration history using various national and international databases.
  • When a migrant applies for residency within 90 days of arriving in Ireland, the migrant’s identity is verified again by an immigration officer.

Increasingly, the process requires the sharing and storing of biometric and other data between Irish authorities and with other countries, which requires a layer of oversight and legal protection.

Samantha Arnold, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, ESRI, commented:

Establishing and verifying identity is critical to facilitating the movement of people into Ireland, whether that is for family reunification, study, work, or other reasons. It is a complex task, requiring the expertise and cooperation of a range of institutions up to, and including, the Minister for Justice and Equality. Several EU member states have a dedicated central competence centre for establishing identity, which serves to reduce the workload involved and also provide supports for migrants who have arrived without adequate documentation.