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Emergency passports granted to 1,010

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(Stock picture)

(Stock picture)

(Stock picture)

Emergency passports have been issued to 1,010 Irish citizens since the Passport Service suspended the issuing of new documents when Covid-19 restrictions were ramped up last Christmas.

An emergency passport service is available for people who require vital medical treatment and those who need to travel due to the death or serious illness of a family member.

When services were suspended at Christmas, around 56,000 applications were 'stranded' in the Passport Online system and 6,000 paper applications were paused. Since the suspension of services, the passports of 43,000 Irish citizens have expired. Concerns have been expressed about delays that could affect applications when restrictions on international travel are lifted.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman told the Sunday Independent the Passport Service "will be able to clear any backlog within six to eight weeks of resuming operations" once restrictions allow.

Last June, when normal passport services resumed after the first lockdown, the backlog for Passport Online applications was cleared in four weeks.

Online applications will be dealt with much quicker than paper ones.When restrictions eventually move from Level 5 to Level 4, the Passport Service will resume processing online applications. Only when restrictions are eased further, to Level 3, will the processing of paper-based applications start again.

In terms of applications for passports at Irish embassies abroad, the highest number of urgent requests for emergency travel documents during the current Level 5 restrictions have come from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Last year, Irish consular services that received the greatest number of passport applications in foreign countries were in Pretoria, New York, San Francisco, Abu Dhabi, Canberra, Ottawa, Chicago, Sydney, Paris and Washington.

In 2019, 935,000 passports were issued, but only 450,000 were issued last year, when the pandemic struck. At present, 5.2 million people hold valid Irish passports.

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