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Hypocritical McDowell unfit to guide immigration policies

4 February, 2004

Speaking during the course of the Immigration Bill debate in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, accused the Minister for Justice of being a "footsoldier of Fortress Europe" and unfit to guide immigration and asylum policies in Ireland or Europe.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "I am speaking to this odious Bill under protest. This is not an immigration Bill, it is an anti-immigration Bill. It should not have come before this House at all - and certainly not in the dictatorial - and indeed chaotic - manner in which the Government has proposed to introduce it.

"Contrary to the Minister's assertion that no one has complained of the outdated law before now, ever since we entered this chamber Sinn Féin has been calling for comprehensive immigration law reform and the introduction of a human rights-compliant, positive, compassionate immigration law. We need a new law that upholds our international obligations with regard to both refugees and migrants, that recognises the massive positive economic and social potential of immigration, that allows for family reunification, and that provides complementary protection for those genuinely in need but who do not fit the strict Convention refugee definition.

"But instead of these urgently needed changes, the Minister has manipulated the situation to introduce a number of new draconian measures such as the now notorious provision to exclude disabled people at section 4(3)(c). He has opportunistically used the High Court decision to escalate his ongoing war on immigration that commenced with Operation Hyphen in July of 2002, when he had nearly 50 legal non-nationals rounded up and arbitrarily arrested.

"There is absolutely no question that the High Court judgement demands a response. But it is misleading for the Minister to insist that he had no choice but to introduce the Bill in this form. That is not true.

"The Minister has shown that he is nothing more than a footsoldier for Fortress Europe. He is unfit to guide the process of developing of the EU Common Migration and Asylum Policies as per his responsibility during the Presidency. He is totally unfit to frame Irish immigration and asylum policy. And he is increasingly proving that all the legal education and experience in the world cannot compensate for a basic failure to comprehend what justice really means.

"This state does not need another flawed piece of immigration legislation. It does need a positive, compassionate, anti-racist immigration law and policy as befits a nation scarred by emigration, a nation with an extensive diaspora, a nation whose people have reaped such massive benefit from the open immigration policies of other countries, a nation that has felt the hurt caused by xenophobia and discrimination abroad, typified by the injunction that 'no Irish need apply'.

"It is also high time to drop the disgusting hypocrisy that drives anti-immigration law in this state. Thousands of families in this state have relatives who are illegal immigrants in other countries. We don't stigmatise them as criminals. We don't call for their immediate arrest and deportation back to Ireland. Instead even the Minister for Foreign Affairs calls for sympathetic treatment and the regularisation of their status. Such hypocrisy pervades this Bill and this Government's whole approach to immigration.

"Sinn Féin has submitted more than 40 amendments to this Bill, but I must admit that for us it is merely an exercise in damage control. We believe this Bill is so fundamentally flawed that no amount of amendments can fix it. It should not be passed. It should be withdrawn." ENDS

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