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Minister's immigration law reform scheme misses the mark - Ó Snodaigh

12 April, 2005

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has expressed disappointment with the proposed Immigration and Residence Bill scheme published today by the Minister for Justice and indicated that Sinn Féin will make a submission to the Minister on the party‚s proposed policy alternatives. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"As with all of his reform packages, the Minister has once again failed to address some of the main problems and injustices in the existing system. While I continue to study his proposals - and welcome a few of his plans - I have already identified some fundamental flaws.

"Firstly, he has not provided for the granting of work permits to employees instead of employers. This is essential. The current system is wide open to major exploitation of immigrants, as we have seen in the most recent case of the GAMA workers.

"The Minister has not provided for a formal system of complementary protection for those who do not meet the UN refugee definition but who are still in need of Irish protection and compassion. The present system is unfair, is too discretionary and is neither transparent nor human rights-compliant.

"His family reunification proposals, while welcome, are too minimal and do not provide sufficient guarantees of fairness.

"He also does not provide for even a temporary amnesty for illegal migrants - though his Government has asked the US to grant such an amnesty to illegal Irish migrants in America.

"He does not provide for an end to immigration detention in prisons ˆ despite criticism of this practice by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. He offers no solution to the problem that the border continues to apply to non-EU migrants - who cannot legally cross into the Six Counties. Nor does he provide for an end to mass deportations - a disastrous policy from a human rights point of view as we have recently seen.

"He also does not provide for either compulsory human rights and anti-racism training for immigration officers or for the monitoring of immigration officers for racist practice or for human rights compliance. The absence of such requirements has already caused problems.

"While the establishment of a separate Immigration and Naturalisation Service is welcome, he has failed to establish a separate Ministerial responsibility for it, and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment will continue to have responsibility for foreign workers.Therefore, incoherence in this policy area looks set to continue.

"Finally, the Minister makes a number of very problematic proposals to which Sinn Féin is opposed, including Ministerial discretionary powers to set immigration quotas, the fingerprinting of visitors, the potential outsourcing of visa application processing and decision-making to a private company, and the potential establishment of detention facilities at ports and airports."


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