06/09/2006 – 5:37:42 PM
The Irish Examiner
New immigration bill drafting approved
The Minister for Justice Michael McDowell announced that the Government has today approved the drafting of the proposed Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.
The bill will set out, in a single code, comprehensive statutory procedures for the application of stated policies to the various stages of the immigration process: visas, entry to the State, protection, residence permits and their terms and conditions, and the process of removal where that is necessary.
This bill represents a radical overhaul of the States immigration laws dating back to 1935, said the Minister.
It takes a new and integrated approach to the whole process for foreign nationals coming to the State, staying here and, when necessary, being required to leave.
In the context of the bill, which starts from the premise that immigration policies are a matter for the Government of the day, the phrase foreign nationals will refer only to those who are from outside the European Union; the rights and obligations of EU citizens resident here are governed by the EU Free Movement Directive, which was given effect in Irish law last April.
Policies are being developed which will be aimed at encouraging people with sought-after qualifications, skills or entrepreneurial ability to consider Ireland as a destination for permanent migration for themselves and their families.
An important factor in the development of such policies will be the provisions set out in the scheme for a status of long-term resident, with entitlements and access to state services that will approximate to those of Irish citizens.
This status will make Ireland a more attractive place for those with scarce skills and experience.
The Minister said: Make no mistake, we are in competition with other economies for go-ahead people with experience or qualifications that are in short supply at home. Immigration policies are first and foremost about what is best for Irish society.
The Bill will also integrate into the immigration code Irelands processes for honouring our obligations under the Geneva Convention on Refugees and other international instruments designed to offer protection from persecution and other dangers.
Irelands policies in these matters are straightforward. We are fully committed to offering protection to those who come to our shores and are entitled under the relevant international instruments to get that protection here, said the Minister.
Those commitments were enshrined in the Refugee Act 1996, and will be restated in the new legislation. What will change are our methods of delivering on those commitments.
“The present multi-stage process is not the most efficient way of ensuring that those who should have the protection of the State get it as soon as possible, and delays mean that those who are not entitled to protection find it an attractive proposition to make ill-founded claims in the hope that something will turn up to enable them to stay anyway.
“By integrating the present asylum and pre-deportation examinations into one streamlined process, we will be able to give claimants a quicker and complete answer to the real question that they ask: 'can I stay?'
At the heart of the new legislation is the concept of lawful residence: no foreign national will be lawfully resident in the State unless he or she has a valid current residence permit issued by or on behalf of the Minister.
The residence permit will be in credit card format, showing a photograph of the holder and containing biometric information, and will be the primary means of identifying whether a foreign national is lawfully in the state.
Under the proposed legislation, any foreign nationals who are unlawfully in the state will be obliged to remove themselves, and where they fail to do so will be liable to be removed summarily, and detained if necessary to ensure removal.
At the Government meeting today it was agreed that the Bill should stipulate that one of the conditions of residence in Ireland will be an undertaking to keep the peace and be of good behaviour and comply generally with the law of the land, in particular, a number of specified laws such as those related to drugs, road traffic etc.
Breach of these conditions will lead to a summary process of revocation.
The Minister said I make no apologies for ensuring that there are effective ways of removing foreign nationals who shouldnt be here and who dont comply with their obligation to leave the State or those who fail to comply with the laws of the land.
” No system of immigration management would be complete if we couldnt manage the removal in an efficient and humane way of those who should not be here. This is a duty that every Government owes to Irish society – and by that phrase I mean not just Irish citizens but also others who have settled here and share in an orderly way in Irish life.