Press Release: Tuesday, March 9, 1999.
Immigrant Solidarity Challenges New Immigration Bill.
Cork Based anti-racist group, Immigrant Solidarity, is alarmed at provisions in the new 'Immigration Bill' which grant the Minister for Justice considerable discretionary powers when dealing with potential deportation cases. John O'Donoghue has also registered his intention to deal harshly with pro-immigrant groups that are seeking to protect the basic human rights of asylum seekers. Fines and jail sentences are threatened for individuals and groups that attempt to challenge the legitimacy of the deportation process.
This most recent effort to 'Make Provision in Relation to the Control of Non-Nationals' allows for deportations to occur when the minister deems it 'conducive to the common good'. Clearly, notions of the common good are open to individual interpretation and are often dictated by political pragmatism. Section 5 of the Bill relates to the detention of asylum seekers who attempt to contest a deportation order that is lodged against them. Immigrant Solidarity is gravely concerned that if it is enacted, this legislation may lead to the creation of specialised detention centres for holding asylum seekers who avail of their legal right to appeal a deportation notice. British experience shows that the use of deportation centres reflects a complete disregard for the civil liberties of refugees.
The established legal principle 'innocent until proven guilty' is dispensed with as asylum seekers may be deported on the basis of unfounded allegations that are made against them. Section 3 of the Bill provides for the deportation of an individual who has been 'charged with any crime or offence'. As well as allowing great scope for ministerial discretion, the Bill also extends the already substantial powers of the Gardai. Does section 5 of the Bill mean that suspicion alone, that non-nationals may have transgressed the law, provides adequate reason for their arrest and detention?
At present Immigrant Solidarity is actively participating in development of a national federation of anti-racist campaigns. By our involvement in this federation we will challenge the government to withdraw its proposed racist legislation and demand that it extend a proper welcome to our immigrant communities. Immigrant Solidarity will be organising a variety of actions over the coming months in an effort to mobilise and reassert the pro-immigrant sentiment of ordinary Irish people.
Contact: Rosie Meade (daytime - 021-902991) & Ross O'Sullivan