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Ó Snodaigh calls for fundamental reform of immigration policy

29 February, 2004


Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh speaking at the Ard Fheis said 'The Fianna Fáil-PD Government is anti-immigration and anti-refugee full stop. As virtually his first act as Minister, Michael McDowell ordered pre-dawn raids to round-up illegal immigrants ˆ except that as it turned out nearly half of those he rounded-up were totally legal, and their arrests were arbitrary.' Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

Sinn Féin has identified three areas of Justice policy in this state that are in urgent need of reform on a human rights basis. You have heard me today promote the need for fundamental Garda reform. You have heard me speak of the need for fundamental prison reform. The third area needing fundamental reform on an urgent basis is the immigration policy of this state.

The Fianna Fáil-PD Government is anti-immigration and anti-refugee full stop. As virtually his first act as Minister, Michael McDowell ordered pre-dawn raids to round-up illegal immigrants ˆ except that as it turned out nearly half of those he rounded-up were totally legal, and their arrests were arbitrary. Since then, the Minister has introduced not one but two Immigration Acts that were the subject of intense criticism by the human rights sector and which contained elements that were denounced by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This Minister is so intent on ridding this state of immigrants and refugees that he has issued deportation orders to the families of 11,000 Irish citizen children ˆ a policy that will result in the de facto expulsion of 11,000 Irish citizens on the basis of their ethnic background. Michael McDowell‚s actions are nothing short of outrageous. He has proven himself UNFIT to guide the immigration policies of this state ˆ much less to guide the development of a Common Migration and Asylum Policy for the European Union, as he plans to under the Irish Presidency

Most recently this week we were subjected to a deplorable and irresponsible compact between the Government and the media to whip up a xenophobic hysteria about phantom floods of migrants from Eastern Europe, based on no evidence whatsoever, and in direct contradiction to the Government‚s arguments during the resale of the Nice Treaty in the referendum re-run. But republicans aren‚t fooled. We recognise that this is nothing more than a pre-election scapegoat ploy to deflect criticism, buy votes and sell news.

The Government's whole immigration policy is hypocritical. It is built on lies. It is racist and it is wrong.

Comrades, once again the motion I commend to you is self-explanatory. That this Ard Fheis calls for an end to the Irish Government's war on immigration, and for the Minister for Justice to stop his criminalisation of immigrants and refugees.

We call for fundamental and comprehensive immigration policy reform in this state including the repeal of present unjust laws and the introduction of a positive immigration policy underpinned by respect for human rights and a humane ethos that more appropriately reflects an empathetic understanding gained through the experience of Irish emigration, and that recognises the massive potential contribution of migrants (including refugees) and migration to the Irish economy and society. To this end, I ask the Ard Fheis to endorse the very sound recommendations of the Immigrant Council of Ireland‚s report on Labour Migration Into Ireland and pledge that Sinn Féin will work with others to see these recommendations implemented. We must also call for the introduction on an urgent basis of a proper system of complementary humanitarian protection such as exists in other jurisdictions, so that people who do not fit the strict definition of „Convention refugee‰ but who nevertheless have a genuine fear of returning to their country of origin can be allowed to remain in Ireland. We must strongly reject and deplore as racist the Government‚s policy of deporting Irish child citizens along with their non-national parents, and to call not only for the deportation orders in such cases to be vacated, but also for the Government to introduce legislation affirming the equal right of all citizen children to remain in Ireland in the care and company of their parents regardless of the national or ethnic origin of their parents. BECAUSE WE CANNOT TOLERATE THE EXISTENCE OF SECOND CLASS CITIZENSHIP ON ANY BASIS WHATSOEVE

The only appropriate legacy for a nation scarred by emigration is a positive immigration policy that recognises the dignity and rights of migrants, and that also recognises that immigration is an enormously constructive social and economic force whose potential must be harnessed in the best interests of our future. Sinn Féin is calling for such a positive immigration policy for this state and for a United Ireland, and so I urge you to send a clear message that our party is promoting the best alternative.

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