Archive for the ‘Immigration and Asylum’ Category

Polygamy in the High Court

February 8, 2010 1 comment

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that the High Court will soon rule on the validity of an Irish citizen’s marriage under s. 29 of the Family Law Act, 1995. The man is Lebanese. He married two women in Lebanon, where polygamous marriage is permitted. He entered Ireland with his second wife and claimed asylum. His first wife arrived in Ireland much later.  The man has children with both and  apparently lives with both in Ireland.  Seven years ago the Department of Justice had refused to grant a visa to the man’s first wife. However, after the man challenged the refusal in the High Court, the Department agreed to quash its initial refusal. As part of this settlement, the man is required to seek a s. 29 ruling. The Times reports that ‘[t]he state and the wives are all represented in the case. The residency rights of both spouses will depend on the decision. A number of similar cases are awaiting the outcome.’ The case looks to be (or is very similar to) that of Hussein Ali Hamoud. The Irish Independent reported on his case in 2003 here.  There is been remarkably little media discussion of the case today. Marian Finucane discussed the issue, to some extent, on RTE Radio 1 yesterday. The podcast is here (from minute 21). The Examiner also published a short opinion piece.

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Recent Issues in Immigration policy: Criminalisation, Detention and Socio-Economic Rights

February 7, 2010 Leave a comment

The Immigrant Council of Ireland recently briefed delegates from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) during their recent ‘periodic visit’ toDublin. You can find the Irish reports and responses from 2002 and 2006 here. The ICI says in its latest newsletter that :

At the meeting, the ICI highlighted existing legislative provisions for immigration-related detention in a wide range of circumstances, as well as the proposed provisions in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008. The ICI also highlighted the ongoing difficulties in monitoring the welfare and conditions of migrants in detention due to the lack of official data recorded by the Irish Prison Service or other agencies…In addition, the ICI raised concerns about victims of trafficking being kept in detention and charged with immigration related offences, concerns which were also expressly highlighted by the US Trafficking In Persons Report (2009)

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Confusion over the IBC/05 Scheme

February 7, 2010 3 comments

From the Immigrant Council of Ireland blog comes news about applications for renewal of residence permits under the IBC/05 scheme. We blogged about the position of Irish-born children of migrants to Ireland here and you can find out more about the experiences of families under the scheme in this report.

The ICI will closely monitor any fall-out from the confusion around the process for renewing residence permits for the parents of Irish citizen children.  About 17,000 people have this type of residence permit (IBC), which are due for renewal this year.

In December, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) advertised the process for renewing IBC residence permits, stating that people could do so by presenting at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) or their local immigration office, with the relevant documents, fee etc. But people who followed the directions set out in the advertisements have been told by the GNIB that it is unable to renew their permits without further direction from INIS. INIS has indicated a second announcement about the renewal process will be made on in national newspapers soon. In the meantime, many affected migrants have not been able to renew their residence permits.

This apparent breakdown in coordination between two parts of the Department of Justice has very serious ramifications, not least the fact that when a person’s current permit expires and is not renewed, they become undocumented.  This could have implications for a person’s employment security and possibly on citizenship applications, as well creating enormous stress and confusion.  The ICI has been in contact with both INIS and the GNIB in an attempt to have the situation addressed.

Call for Ban on FGM in Ireland

February 5, 2010 3 comments

According to a report in the Irish Times, a number of participants at an event held by the National Steering Committee on Female Genital Mutilation to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM called for a stepping up of the campaign for a new law banning the practice of FGM in Ireland.

During the event, serious concerns were expressed about whether the current legal framework in Ireland served as an effective tool for addressing the practise of FGM. While Government advice has indicated that female genital mutilation constitutes an offence under assault laws, speakers at the seminar said distinct legislation was needed.

According to the Irish Times report, a spokesman for Minister for Health Mary Harney said: “The question of introducing specific legislation to ban female genital mutilation remains under review. However, we cannot be specific on a timeframe for this review at this stage.”

The Irish Steering Committee came together in early 2008 to develop the Plan of Action to address Female Genital Mutilation, which was finalised in late 2008. The report is a valuable source of information on the practise of FGM in Ireland and elsewhere. The document highlights that ‘a proactive and coordinated response is required to prevent the establishment of the practice [of FGM] in Ireland and to provide care for women and girls living in Ireland who have already undergone FGM in their country of origin’. It identifies a number of strategies ‘as being essential to addressing FGM in Ireland and in other countries through Irish development policies’, focusing on actions under 5 strategy headings: legal, asylum, health, community and development aid. From a legal perspective, the report quotes earlier research carried out by the Women’s Health Council which, amongst other things, highlighted the shortcomings and the inappropriateness of existing legislation in terms of prosecuting FGM. Read more…

Immigration and ‘Marriages of Convenience’

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment

On Monday, the Irish Times reported on a new operation which has been undertaken by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) to detect and prevent what they believe to be marriages of convenience for the purpose of securing EU residency rights. A Pakistani man, Muhammad Shafi, was recently convicted of offences related to the possession of ‘false instruments’. Gardai also intervened to halt his marriage to a Lithuanian woman. The Irish Times reports that marriages designed to circumvent certain legal obstacles to residency in Ireland are an important informal feature of  our immigration regime, with the Minister  for Justice estimating that  “30 per cent of all our applications for recognition under the EU directive on freedom of movement and residency involve persons who were illegally present in Ireland or on a temporary or limited permission when making their applications”. The Times explains:

These marriages are typically arranged by failed asylum seekers or former students from Asia who no longer have permission from immigration authorities to stay in Ireland.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern told his EU counterparts at a meeting in Spain at the weekend that there was evidence of growing abuse of immigration laws with a growing number of non-EU nationals marrying women from the Baltic states.

Some 110 of the 384 residency applications made by Pakistanis in the Republic in 2009 were based on marriages to Latvians.

A further 50 applications were based on marriage to Polish nationals while 47 applications were based on Pakistanis marrying Estonians.

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Public education and migration: the patronage system under scrutiny

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

As the Irish Independent reported yesterday, the OECD “has proposed that the Government set up new state-run primary schools to better cater for the new multi-ethnic pupil population.” In its review of migrant education in Ireland, published in December 2009, the organisation observed: “the Irish authorities should consider creating net new capacity and re-deploying existing capacity through this channel [of multidenominational schools].” Furthermore, it notes: “a new model of primary school patronage, under the VEC structure, catering for children of all beliefs and none, reflecting the increasing diversity in this area, is currently in operation in two locations in Dublin.”

The system of educational patronage, through which the public education function in Ireland has historically been delegated to bodies owned by, and operated according to the ethos of the religious denominations prevailing in particular areas, has been the subject or renewed contestation since the publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports in particular. Although the State remains formally neutral in law between different religious denominations, most notably in the Education Act 1998, which gives legislative status to school “patrons” – to whom boards of management are accountable for the upholding of the ethos or “characteristic spirit” of schools – Ireland nonetheless has a de facto hegemony of Catholic-ethos schools, with parents in many areas of the State having little choice but to avail of these. For recent commentary on the patronage system from the standpoint of the republican premise of non-domination, see Tom Hickey’s recent post on this site.

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Significant Reduction in number of Asylum applications

According to figures  published by the Office of the Reception and Integration agency, asylum applications in Ireland have reached their lowest level in over ten years.  2,689 people sought asylum in Ireland in 2009. This represents a 30%  drop from the 2008 figures. Just 7 years ago, asylum applications had risen to an annual figure of over 11,000. The number of asylum applications has been falling continuously since then.

The Irish Independent attributes the drop to ‘a crackdown by immigration authorities’.  The Department of Justice has said that roughly 1 in 10 of all asylum applicants achieve refugee status on ‘the first attempt’. Deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers rose in 2009 by roughly 80%. The Irish Times reports that ‘In total, 681 persons were either assisted to return home voluntarily or were removed from the State in 2009, representing an increase of 24.7 per cent on the corresponding figure for 2008.’

Roisin Boyd of the Irish Refugee Council has warned that the system must not be geared towards deterring people at risk from making asylum applications  in Ireland at all:

“The reasons that applications for asylum to Ireland appear to have dropped are numerous — including increased security which makes it harder for asylum seekers to access EU territory…But those who seek protection will never stop seeking it no matter how many barriers are erected. No asylum seeker must ever be returned to a country where their life is in danger…At this time of year in particular it is important that we cherish the fact that we in Ireland live in a democracy and enjoy the freedoms that entails — many asylum seekers do not have these freedoms and we must ensure they are allowed to apply for asylum and to have their cases heard in Ireland.”

Fine Gael, responding to the Minister’s expression of satisfaction at this year’s figures, have been most concerned about the expense associated with the asylum process. Political attention ought also to turn to the human impact of the direct provision system, highlighted by Liam here as well as in this recent article in the Irish Times.