Groups ‘Disturbed’ By Immigration Bill

Groups 'disturbed' by immigration bill

The Irish Times

Refugee groups say they are deeply concerned by provisions in the Government's immigration bill which extends the power of the State to detain of migrants and those seeking asylum.

The Irish Refugee Council said the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, published this week, allows for the arbitrary detention of people solely because they wish to apply for asylum and protection in this State.

The council's chief executive Robin Hanan Mr Hanan said: “We are aware of the historic implications of imprisoning certain categories of people – of choosing to penalise people on the basis of their national identity.”

He was speaking a press conference in Dublin today where the council, the Refugee Information Service and Akidwa the African Women's Network came together to express their concerns about the bill.

The three groups jointly called on the Minister for Justice to make “fundamental” changes to the bill to ensure that asylum seekers can get a fair hearing and “break the secrecy clouding the system”.

Decisions on applications and appeal in Ireland are not published anonymously, as is the case in other countries.

The refugee groups claim the new bill re-enforces this secrecy and continues to put the entire asylum process outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.

Campaigns and policy officer with the Irish Refugee Council Deo Ladislas Ndakengerwa spoke of his experience as a Rwandan refugee.

He says that if he had not been granted asylum and refugee status in Ireland, he would have been “history”.

While expressing his appreciation to the Irish State for granting him protection, he says it is painful to see other asylum seekers waiting for years to have their applications processed – some of whom have experienced torture.

There was also concern expressed about the position of children in the Bill.

“The Bill talks about protection of victims of trafficking, but provides no system for protecting trafficked children.”

“It is also vague, and out of line with good practice internationally, on the how to assess the age of a child and therefore whether they need special protection as children,” the council said.

The Refugee Information Service said the Government should clarify the distinction between asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.

“Asylum seekers arrive with the intention of seeking refugee status, as laid down under international agreements, and should not be confused with other immigration issues,” said RIS director Jo Ahern.

“To seek asylum in and the protection of another country is not an illegal act.”