Refugees travelling here from 20 'safe' European countries will now be required to hold visas under a change agreed by Government.

The Cabinet held an incorporeal meeting this afternoon to finalise the move which tightens immigration rules here amid an accommodation shortage for refugees.

The Government has said the move is aimed at protecting the integrity of the International Protection System.

The International Protection Office has been receiving applications from people already granted refugee status by other States.

From January 2021 to January 2022 some 760 applications for International Protection here had already been granted protection in another state.

More than half, or 479 refugees, had been given protection in EU States with visa exemptions.

There was a total of 6,494 applications for protection in this country during that period.

Visa-free travel will still be available for Ukrainian nationals under the changes which will be in place for one year.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said Ireland's commitment to those fleeing the unjust and illegal war remains steadfast.

Today's decision means that Ireland is temporarily suspending the operation of the Council of Europe Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees.

Under this agreement refugees from signatory European Countries can travel without a visa or prior clearance if the journey is solely for a visit and for a maximum of three months.

The visa exemption applies to holders of a Convention Travel Document issued by Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, or Switzerland.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said today's decision was not taken lightly.

"In recent months, we have seen that the visa exemption provided for in the Council of Europe Agreement is being exploited, including by some who enter the State and subsequently claim international protection, despite having already been granted such protection by another European State," Ms McEntee said.

The agreement allows a state to temporarily suspend it on the grounds of public order, security or public health.

France suspended its operation of the agreement in 2003, and Britain did so in 1986.