Smugglers 'used vans to dodge passport controls'
As they flew across Europe, the illegal immigrants accessing Ireland appeared and acted like any other Aer Lingus passengers.
Having handed over up to €30,000, they boarded the plane and prepared to follow a well-worn path that managed to circumvent the immigration controls in Dublin.
Sources say that when the plane touched down, the immigrants would disembark along with their fellow travellers - but were on the look-out for somebody who would direct them to a holding spot inside the airport terminal. They would wait there discreetly in a hallway until given a signal to move.
Sources say that the immigrants were then hurried back to the runway where a catering van would be waiting for their escape.
On occasion, they would be given a high-visibility jacket in order to disguise themselves as airport workers.
"It is believed the smuggled passengers got into the back of the van," a source said.
Once inside, they were driven to a location on the northern side of the airport from where they could be picked up by associates.
Airlines are responsible for their catering vehicles, which are screened and have a seal applied before going airside.
Airport security personnel will check the seals are intact as the vehicles enter the airport, but sources told the Irish Independent the situation is far more lax on departure.
It is understood members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau were monitoring the movement of vans for some time and confiscated two on Sunday.
Questions will be raised about how passengers could be shepherded away from the immigration zone without the knowledge of more airport or airline staff.
"Immigration laws put the onus on the carrier to present their passengers to an immigration officer," a source familiar with the process said.
Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Driscoll told a press conference: "Clearly people who are from particular jurisdictions are willing to pay particular sums of money if they can enter a jurisdiction where they wouldn't have the capacity.
"There is always the temptation to succumb to offerings of corrupt payments. That ongoing payment is being monitored."
At a briefing on the garda operation yesterday, he confirmed that "two employees of a carrier are involved". He said there were "sensitivities" and searches of premises and vehicles were involved.
"All of the information gleaned from those searches and in the course of interviewing suspects will assist answering many questions which I am sure you would like to ask which I may be curtailed in answering at this moment in time," he said.
"The sequence of events involved, on the particular time of the arrest, the arrival of a person at Dublin Airport and indications that two people were going to facilitate that person in circumventing immigration controls," Mr O'Driscoll added.
He said there was "always the danger that employees - and this is worldwide - who have the capacity to facilitate illegal immigration will do certain acts that may assist in that regard. It involves ongoing monitoring. It is not the first time in this State that State employees have been arrested by the Garda National Immigration Bureau, where breaches of procedures were discovered.
"It takes ongoing attention to ensure the security of procedure."