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Almost 500 foreign nationals queued throughout the night outside the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) in Dublin on Friday, 25 September. The crowd gathered at the Bureau, located on Burgh Quay, to renew Irish visas for work, study and re-entry.
The queue is a regular occurrence at the Bureau and tends to extend around the corner from Burgh Quay onto the Corn Exchange Place. Staff at the Bureau say that it's not uncommon for queues to stretch all the way around the block and then split into two lines of people near the GNIB's main entrance.
Among those trying to get an Irish visa were women and children, who were seen wearing big heavy coats, scarves and hats while sipping hot drinks in a bid to fend off the cold during the early morning hours. People at the head of the queue had camped outside the Bureau overnight. Many arrived at midnight to ensure that they were first in line to renew their Irish visa.
However, queue lengths have been a continuous source of controversy, with many people forced to stand on the street for hours. Even more are turned away and told to come back the following day because by the time they reach the head of the queue the immigration Bureau has closed for the day.
Online immigration booking system
In June 2014, a spokesperson for the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service said that plans were in place to reduce the lengthy queues by introducing an online booking system for appointments. It is claimed that the new system will mean that those renewing their Irish visa would no longer have to queue for hours.
12 months on, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service says that the online appointment service for the re-entry process is' "at an advanced stage, with final tests now being carried out on the system."
Joining the queue with her 3-year-old daughter, Annabelle, just before 5am, Omonike Sydney said: "I've been here before, two years ago, however the line was not as long as this. On that occasion I came at 7am and managed to get into the centre." Ms Sydney, who had her daughter wrapped in a pink duffle coat has lived in Ireland since 2008.
Ms Sydney added: "Waiting on the streets leaves you extremely cold. Even when it's raining you're forced to stand there."
Nitin Ratwar and Vipin Tanwar from India expressed their frustration at being unable to renew their Irish visas online. "Last year the immigration service said they would introduce an online system by January," said Mr Tanwar. "I've been in Ireland for four years and every time renewing my visa is a pain," he added.
Mr Tanwar also commented on the increase in fees, which doubled from €150 to €300 in 2013. "I thought that an increase in fees would mean that some of the money made would go towards improving the visa renewal process. However, it appears that all they've improved is their offices," he said.
He said: "It's not about the money we're spending to renew visas, it's about the number of working hours we waste queueing to get it done. The immigration service doesn't understand, they treat us like we're refugees and that's how all those who are made to queue feel. It's considerably shocking when we live in such a technological age and the internet era."
Having started queuing with friends at 4am, Erika Mimatto Feuerschuette from Brazil said: "The system needs to change, they need to have a schedule like they do in Brazil and the USA. In those countries you get an appointment, you're not made to herd like animals on the street."
Ms Feuerschuette came to Ireland in August, 2015, initially to study English. Already she's unsure if she made the right decision to come to the country. She said: "I thought coming to Ireland would make my future more secure than in Brazil, but now I'm not as convinced."
A spokesperson for Ireland's Department of Justice said: "The increase in the number of people queuing can be attributed to more overseas students arriving in Ireland ahead of the new academic year." A statement released by the Department of Justice read: "Applications for a re-entry visa can be made by post and applicants are encouraged to utilise the postal service where possible."
The Department assured applicants that every effort is being made to offer 'a customer friendly service to those calling the Burgh Quay offices.' They said: "The GNIB public office is open from 8am-9pm every Friday and remains open during lunchtime hours, too."
The number of people looking to apply for an Irish visa is expected to double between September and November, according to the immigration Department. It's estimated that around 100,000 applicants attend the Burgh Quay centre each year, making it one of the busiest offices in Ireland.
"Special arrangements are being made to accommodate students from September to mid-November as we seek to minimise the length of time working people are required to be away from their jobs," said the Immigration Department.