Republican News · Thursday 15 June 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Government ``feeds prejudice'' against asylum seekers

The Dublin government is currently pushing legislation through Leinster House to increase the powers of the Minister for Justice and the Gardaí to deport people who are refused asylum. The measures have been widely criticised and Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin spoke in opposition to them in Leinster House last week. He said:

``There is in the commentary of the Minister and others a very harsh and dismissive attitude to unsuccessful asylum applicants which, I believe, is dangerous.

``There is a suggestion, utterly false, that unsuccessful applicants are criminals. The minister and others have repeatedly referred to unsuccessful applicants, or to those not entitled to asylum under present rules, as ``abusing'' the asylum system. This is also a dangerous fallacy. If a person is entitled to apply how can that person be justly accused of abusing the system? Such descriptions of people who come to this country do nothing to inform the ignorant and the prejudiced. On the contrary, they feed prejudice.

``With his amendments, the minister is scrupulous in ensuring that the deportation process is as swift as possible. There is, of course, a need for powers of deportation. But the Irish Refugee Council has stated that the minister's proposed changes to the Immigration Act 1999 represent ``a stringent tightening of the rights of unsuccessful asylum seekers to access legal remedies in the Irish courts''. When I place these government amendments in the context of the other legislation introduced by the minister, I can only repeat what I said at the Second Stage of this Bill in December. Instead of coherent policy and practice on the separate but closely related issues of asylum and immigration, we have a patchwork of reactive legislation.

``It is scandalous that the government has welcomed police from the repressive regime in Nigeria to become involved in the asylum process. This turns the whole notion of asylum on its head. It's like inviting the Gestapo to assist in identifying Jews or the British Army to identify republicans. Yet in this context we are asked to further tighten the deportation procedure. I cannot support that.

``I reject the government's approach and call again for fair asylum procedure, the right to work and study for asylum seekers, and proper immigration legislation that will allow economic migrants, in numbers to be determined, to work here and to help meet the labour needs of our economy.''

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