Lenihan Urged To Change Immigration Bill

Lenihan urged to change Immigration Bill

Elaine Edwards
Last Updated: 13/02/2008 14:38

Five organisations involved in immigrant issues have urged Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan to amend his proposed immigration laws in order to address what they claim are potential breaches of human rights law.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland, Integrating Ireland, the Irish Refugee Council, Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland and Refugee Information Services asked that the issues be addressed ahead of the Dil debate on the Immigration, Residence and Protection (IRP) Bill which begins tomorrow.
In our view, a lot of the provisions in this Bill put people in danger of being sent back to their country
Robin Hanan, ceo Irish Refugee Council

Their concerns include provisions in the Bill for summary deportation, which they say may result in vulnerable people being deported if they are undocumented for reasons “beyond their control”. The groups say this provision would lead to breaches of fair procedure – a right recognised under the Irish Constitution.

“It also has the potential to violate several rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR),” the groups said in a statement.

They also raised concerns about the failure to provide for an independent appeals mechanism for immigration decisions, and about restrictions on the right to marry.

The Bill also permits the arrest and detention of applicants for asylum in eight specific circumstances. The five organisations claim this may be in breach of the ECHR and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Robin Hanan, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council said one of the issues of particular concern in the Bill is the issue of 'non-refoulement', the principle that no person should be sent back to a country where they are in danger.

“In our view, a lot of the provisions in this Bill put people in danger of being sent back to their country,” Mr Hanan told ireland.com .

“One of the issues we've come up against is the fact that, effectively, carriers, airlines, ferry companies are being used as immigration agents through the carrier legislation, which means the carrier is liable for taking on board someone who doesn't have correct documentation. But in the case of someone claiming asylum, the only person who knows if they don't have correct documentation should be a properly trained immigration officer.”

“We're also worried about the fact that the Bill doesn't correct many of the biases against asylum seekers in the application procedure at the moment. They have made it faster but they haven't made it fairer.”

Mr Hanan said the Bill seems to introduce new provisions for detaining people on arrival.

“In our view it's wrong to detain people simply for claiming a right to asylum. And we're worried that it doesn't cover particularly vulnerable groups such as children and victims of trafficking.”

Josephine Ahern of the Refugee Information Service (RIS) expressed concern about long delays in family reunification, where people with refugee status have a right to apply to bring their family members here.

“The Government hasn't yet got that piece right. We know that there are hundreds of cases waiting over years,” she said.

Referring to Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd's apology in parliament yesterday for the treatment of indigenous people, Ms Ahern said: “Let's make sure that in years to come that we are not apologising for the mistakes that we may make.”