THIRTY-ONE Albanian stowaways have been found on board a ferry service to Ringaskiddy over the last year in what has been described as a "serious development" in illegal immigration.
In the latest incident, an Albanian teenager was taken into the care of the State after being found on the ferry from Santander to Ringaskiddy last Friday.
He is among the stowaways who have been "risking their lives" to gain entry to Ireland since the Brittany Ferries service to the Spanish port was established 12 months ago.
The youth was travelling on his own on board the ferry when he was found by staff during the journey to Ringaskiddy.
Usually, stowaways are returned home to their country of origin.
However, the youth was put into the care of Tusla, because he was a juvenile.
Local Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said the use of the route by illegal immigrants is “a serious development”.
Gardaí do not believe those risking travelling on board the Santander-Cork service are being trafficked here but have said they are putting their lives at risk by undertaking the journey.
Friday's incident follows another one in recent weeks where a number of stowaways were discovered.
Gardaí are in contact twice weekly with the Guardia Civil in Spain, as both agencies try to stamp out use of the route by migrants.
They have also travelled to Spain to meet with authorities over there to discuss the issue.
It is understood that those taken in to care of the State will be put into the direct provision system when they turn 18 years old.
Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said:
“Obviously the people who are making that journey are putting their lives at risk and there are some serious security issues that arise at the ports in Cork and in Santander.
"I know there is a lot of cooperation but every efforts needs to be made to stop it because it is illegal immigration and these people are putting their lives at risk.”
In February, the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan told the Dáil that 26 stowaways had been found on board the ferry since the service started.
He said that at that point, 17 had been deported in accordance with Section 5 of the Immigration Act 2003 and returned to the port of their departure.
An additional five sought International Protection and will have their claims dealt with in accordance with the International Protection Act 2015.
A further four people were scheduled at that point to be deported.
It is believed that the Albanians may have been attempting to land in Cork with a view to travelling from here to the UK.
Large numbers of Albanians have flocked to the UK in recent years.