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Wednesday 21 August 2019

Junior minister criticises DAA for long passport queues - but airport say it's an issue for Department of Justice

Ciarán Cannon. Photo: Tom Burke
Ciarán Cannon. Photo: Tom Burke

Áine Kenny

A junior minister has hit out at Dublin Airport for what passengers labelled "ridiculously" long queues at passport control, but the airport were quick to clarify it is a government department's issue.

According to disgruntled travellers, passengers were forced to queue along corridors and escalators for almost an hour yesterday while awaiting passport control.

Junior Minister Ciarán Cannon took to Twitter to vent, writing; "Would be interested to hear from @DublinAirport as to why it’s not possible to count the number of inbound passengers and staff the passport desks accordingly.

"These scenes reflect badly on us and are completely avoidable."

However, Dublin Airport say that passport control is not in their remit, and it is in fact a Government department, the Department of Justice, who are in charge of the situation. The department told they are doing everything they can to alleviate the delays, with Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan saying he was aware of the issue.

"Over the past four days, the long weekend, for many the start of the tourist season in Ireland, we had in excess of 200,000 people coming through the airport. That is a challenge," Mr Cannon said.

Dublin Airport (Stock picture)
Dublin Airport (Stock picture)

"I opened the eGates with extra facilities and ease of passage and I believe it is important now that the Dublin Airport Authority would look at its infrastructure and if there are further developments there by way of new buildings or extensions, I would be very happy to ensure that, from a passport or immigration perspective that that consequential increase will follow.

"There is a challenge, but the pressure points are at particular times of the day and by and large the queues are manageable," the Minister explained.

Dublin Airport responded to the Galway TD online yesterday, saying they had no control over Immigration desks or the automatic passport eGates:

"Hi Ciaran, we don’t staff or operate immigration booths at the airport. It is operated by INIS (Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service) which is part of @DeptJusticeIRL. INIS also has responsibility for the operation of the e-gates."

Speaking to Independent,ie, Minister Cannon said the issue needs to be resolved urgently and was critical of Dublin Airport’s response.

"At the end of the day, DAA is responsible for the overall user experience. This needs to be good for people landing in our country for the first time, tourists or investors.

"The DAA and the INIS need to determine the issue, and whether they need more resources from government, because currently it’s leaving a very poor impression of Ireland.

"Dublin Airport told me they send details of passenger numbers to INIS, so I can’t understand why they can’t coordinate this so no one is delayed."

The Galway TD claimed that there is "absolutely no reason" for people queuing in corridors for nearly an hour.

"If you are aware of flight arrival times, you should be well able to coordinate a positive user experience. What we have seen over the last few days has been the opposite of that."

A Dublin Airport spokesman said; "Immigration at Dublin Airport is operated by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service which is part of the Department of Justice and Equality.

"The management and staffing of the immigration process and the operation of the e-gates is undertaken by INIS."

When asked if Dublin Airport can request more staff from INIS, the spokesman said, "Dublin Airport raises customer service issues with INIS if and when issues arise."

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service admits that delays occurred.

"We are aware that some passengers experienced delays yesterday, during which time all immigration booths and eGates were in full operation."

However, angry passengers insisted there were issues with the automated gates and some immigration booths were closed.

"Typically, [delays] arise when a very high number of flights arrive within a specific time period. This situation can be compounded when… delayed flights also land during these peak periods," INIS explained.

"Delays in queuing at passport control can be as a result of non-EU queues backing up and preventing access to the EU lanes for passengers.

"To address the growth in numbers of passengers, the Department understands that the DAA will be starting development works very shortly to significantly expand the passport hall in Terminal 1."

The INIS added that the upgraded eGates were more user-friendly, and the Border Management Unit will expand in the coming months to alleviate further delays.

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