Refugees arriving into Ireland from Europe will need a visa from this afternoon.
Cabinet yesterday agreed to suspend visa-free travel from 20 European countries due to fears the immigration system was being exploited.
The decision suspends the Council of Europe Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees for a period of 12 months.
Ukrainians fleeing the war will still be able to travel to Ireland on a visa-free basis.
Up to 150 people will be housed there and the government hopes they will stay no longer than one week before being moved on to more permanent accommodation.
Fine Gael Senator Barry Ward told Newstalk the move is about ensuring the International Protection System cannot be abused.
“The Department of Justice has noticed that a number of applications for international protection in Ireland - quite a substantial number of the overall number of applications - are coming from people who have already applied for international protection in other countries like Germany or France or Poland or wherever it might be,” he said.
“So, it is really an effort to protect the integrity of the international protection system and to ensure people apply in the country in which they first arrive.”
Between January 2021 and 2022, the State receive 760 applications for international protection from people who had already been granted protection by another state.
Of those 760 people, 479 came from EU states that Ireland allows refugees to travel from visa-free.
They account for 7% of the 6,494 applications for international protection Ireland received in that period.
Mr Ward said the decision is not connected to the current shortage of accommodation for refugees.
“It is really about protecting the integrity of the international protection system,” he said.
“It isn’t to do with accommodation. As far as I know, this measure was taken because the statistics from the Department of Justice show that a large number of applications came from people who had already applied in other European Union or European Economic Area countries.
“That is not the way the system is supposed to work.”
Under the Council of Europe Agreement, refugees in signatory European countries can travel visa free if the journey is solely for a visit of a maximum of three months.
The government is concerned that people are using the system to travel to Ireland and claim international protection here despite having already been granted protection in another European state.
Ireland is the third country to temporarily suspend the agreement since it was first signed in 1959.