Republican News · Thursday 29 June 2000

[An Phoblacht]

President questions constitutionality of `Trafficking' Bill

d 58 people died. By the middle of the week no one was really interested anymore. They were really only interested in Snakesheads, Triads, smuggling routes and $7 billion profits. And so the story died too. They were, after all, `illegals', probably Chinese, and with that died what some might remember as Jack Straw's radical pretensions, and New Labour snuggled up covertly with the deranged mentality of William Haig's refugee toryism.

58 `sans papiers' were dead at Dover on Monday morning, 19 June, because applying for asylum in Britain has deteriorated to the point where those who seek asylum are left without basic human rights, forced into dispersal and detention in jails, discriminated against with vouchers and inadequate Welfare payments. Political asylum has been so restricted by legislation that there is scarcely any way to claim it in England.

Those who were taught the eternal virtues of English democracy, an English parliament and Christian charity, as they slaved to hand over their mineral wealth, resources and primary commodities, found, when they came back looking for those virtues, that they weren't there after all. Only death.

As possibilities for legal entry for refugees and migrants are increasingly restricted, as borders are made increasingly impermeable, people are forced to take increasingly dangerous routes into `Fortress Europe'. And getting into Fortress Europe for most is a matter of life or death.

Last week the number of refugees who have died, since 1993, through these policies of the EU reached 2,000.

One of them was in Dublin. A 22-year-old young woman from Nigeria called Pat committed suicide last Friday. Allegedly, she had received a deportation order, though the Department of Justice does not confirm this. Allegedly her dole had been cut off. Gabriele Olu Ohkenle of the Pan African Organisation says they are trying at the moment to locate her parents at home to break the news gently to them.

These deaths can be put down to border militarisations, asylum laws, detention polices, deportations and carrier sanctions; to institutional racism in creating second class non-citizens without rights.

The mesmerising hypocrisy of Dublin Justice Minister John O'Donoghue, who, as he cleared up the last stages of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill last Wednesday, described himself as deeply saddened and in revulsion at those found trafficking at Dover. The Bill aims to introduce the very same strictures which led to the deaths at Dover. It aims to make it yet more difficult for refugees who want to seek asylum here to do so.

The Bill's very title is a misnomer. There is nothing whatever illegal about a person who lands in this country and seeks asylum; in fact a person's right to do so is guaranteed in the 1951 UN Convention. The very day after the Dover tragedy, Jack Straw took the opportunity to suggest at the Lisbon EU Summit that this convention would have to be changed: that there just won't be any sanctuary for refugees at all any more.

Minister O'Donoghue is racing with fistfulls of legislation to catch up. Far from limiting itself to measures to deal with the `traffickers', the `Trafficking' Bill has become just another opportunity to further widen a gulf between those persons who are citizens, and a sub class of persons living in Ireland who are not.

The Bill limits the legal and constitutional rights of this sub class, who may be arrested without charge and held in custody; who do not have the same rights to judicial review or of appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday (June 27) it was announced that President Mary McAleese has convened a meeting of the Council of State to consider whether this bill, as well as the highly contentious Planning Bill, should be referred to the Supreme Court for a ruling on their constitutionality. Shades of Ó Dálaigh? Can the Constitution admit to two classes of people living in the state? Citizens and not citizens? Time will tell. Does our Constitution allow us to be part of `Fortress Europe', especially when we're in the market for 285,000 immigrant labourers for the next four years?

Contents Page for this Issue
Reply to: Republican News