Fianna Fáil Seanad Group Leader and Seanad Spokesperson on Social Protection, Senator Catherine Ardagh has said the online appointments booking system via the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) webpage needs to be made more secure and it's functions fully restored for applicants.
Senator Ardagh raised the matter in Seanad Éireann earlier this afternoon.
She said, “The overnight queues of immigrants and non-EU nationals outside the INIS Office in Dublin city centre had become front-page news in 2016 and led to significant pressure to come up with an alternative solution.
“An online system was launched later that year which allowed applicants to sign up free of charge, six weeks in advance of an appointment to renew a visa, residence or work permit to stay in Ireland.
“It was recently discovered that this booking system had been compromised and taken advantage of by rogues who have created ‘bot’ internet programmes to automatically fill the appointment slots as they appear.
“As a consequence those in most urgent need of an appointment are left having to snap one up via a third party site where they’re being allegedly sold for €10-€25 by those running the ‘bot’ programmes or else spend months waiting for a place.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that people would make a difficult situation even worse for others by trying to monetise the process and exploit their need.
“There is no doubt that demand for visa renewal and work permits are high, it’s continued to increase year on year but now there’s an even greater backlog due to these bots holding everyone to ransom.
“The Department of Justice as I understand have halted use of the online booking system but have not put any replacement system in place. My concern now is that the overnight queues on Burgh Quay may return.
“Every effort possible must be made by the Minister for Justice to avoid that from happening and for the full restoration of a secure booking system via their webpage.”