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Dáil debates immigration reform

By: Ruth Evans
The Immigrant Council of Ireland

The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) was among seven NGOs which presented TDs with letters outlining our concerns with the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010, which was debated in the Dáil on October 6.

About 30 people, migrants and representatives from the NGOs, met outside the Dáil gates to highlight two of the specific concerns with the Bill – provisions allowing for summary deportations and the lack of an independent appeals tribunal for all immigration-related decisions.

Two TDs – Labour’s Michael D Higgins, a contender for the presidency of Ireland, and Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh – attended the event and spoke to the group. The CEOs and Directors of the NGOs also spoke to other TDs as they entered or left Leinster House.

The event helped generate public interest in some of the more glaring injustices contained in the Bill, which it is to be hoped will be addressed at the next stage of the legislative process, the Committee Stage, which could start within weeks.

Meanwhile, inside the Dáil chamber that afternoon, a number of TDs spoke about their concerns with the proposed new immigration legislation.

The IC critiqued the Bill over the summer and met with a number of TDs or their advisors. We were pleased that some of the defects with the proposed legislation that we highlighted have been taken up by Opposition spokespeople.

In particular, the Opposition justice spokespeople, Deputy Alan Shatter from Fine Gael, Deputy Pat Rabbitte from Labour and Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh from Sinn Féin raised a number of concerns from our overview of this latest attempt at immigration law reform.

These concerns include: proposals allowing for summary removal; the lack of an independent appeals process for immigration-related decisions, despite a promise in the Programme for Government to establish one; the lack of clear rules and an over-reliance on ministerial discretion; and the lack of sufficient protections for victims of trafficking.

The ICI hopes to continue to work closely with TDs in the lead-up to and during the next stage of the legislative process.

The big unknown is whether the Bill will be passed before there is an election. But what we do know is that, as it stands, the proposed legislation does not respect the human rights of migrants or Irish citizens, doesn’t spell out clear rules and will perpetuate many of the problems currently experienced – inefficiency, delays and costly court challenges.

The ICI was shocked by comments made by the Minister for Justice and Law Reform during his summing up of the IRP Bill debate and has written to him asking for urgent clarification.

In response to calls by a number of deputies for clear rules governing migrants’ and Irish citizens’ rights to family reunification, the Minister said:

“A number of Deputies, including Deputies Shatter and Rabbitte, have commented that the Bill does not set out family reunification rights in regard to foreign nationals. Dealing with family reunification for all migrants in primary legislation has a number of difficulties. Family reunification will not apply equally to all types of migration, nor should it. Other countries seek to exercise discretion over which migrants they wish to attract. Ireland is no different in this regard. Experience shows that the largest ongoing source of migration is from family members. It does not make sense to attempt to deal with such a large proportion of our likely future migration in a way that denies the State the capacity to adjust its systems as it needs to do. Such an approach would be inconsistent with what is done in regard to primary migrants who will be governed by regulations and schemes precisely for the reason that the system needs to retain the flexibility it has to manage their cases. There are many people in our system who obtained some form of status here, not necessarily in accordance with any intention of the State that they should be here. It does not follow that the State should now look at bringing in families as a further reward for that behaviour.”

A number of migrants have told us they are deeply hurt and offended by the Minister’s remarks.

The ICI believes it is shocking that any Government Minister would make such comments, let alone one responsible for immigration.

We have asked the Minister to urgently clarify his comments and to specify who he was referring to when he spoke of migrants obtaining status here when “not necessarily in accordance with any intention of the State that they should be here”.

We also copied our letters to the Opposition spokespeople and the Taoiseach.

We understand a Parliamentary Question has been tabled, asking the Minister to clarify his comments.

The ICI will continue to follow up this issue. We believe it is too important to allow comments such as these to go unchallenged.I will report back through this column on any responses we receive.

18 October 2010   


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