Immigrant Solidarity's proposal on a National Campaign against the Forthcoming Government Legislation

The forthcoming, proposed Government legislation on immigration and deportations, represents a major assault on immigrant rights in Ireland. The proposed legislation - recently outlined in draft form in the Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Asylum, Immigration and Related Matters - is racist in both spirit and tone. It will allow for State violence against prospective immigrants and will further legitimise the practice of arbitrary deportations by the Dept of Justice. Moreover, it rules out any possibility of an amnesty for those asylum-seekers already living here.

By means of this proposed legislation the Government is planning to further tighten the already restrictive immigration controls that exist in the Republic of Ireland - the result of which will be an extremely tough stance on immigration into Ireland. The legislation, if enacted, will allow for mass deportations of asylum seekers. In essence it aims to prevent people from entering the country in the first place, or, in the event that they gain entry, it aims to remove them swiftly from the jurisdiction. The proposed legislation will deny asylum-seekers any possibility of regularising their status as refugees or residents and it will significantly reduce their possibility of ever attaining citizenship rights in this country. Worse still, the proposed legislation aims to bring a broad band of workers into the work of enforcing immigration controls by requiring those workers to snitch on so-called illegal immigrants when or if they encounter them during their work. This move is retrograde in the extreme and will only result in a further deterioration in the already difficult living circumstances of immigrants; it will have the definite effect of driving so-called illegal immigrants into an underground existence.

We believe that any anti-deportations movement worth its salt must actively resist the introduction of new measures aimed at facilitating mass-deportations in the future. There is little point in fighting deportations alone (the symptoms of immigration law) if at the same time the very basis of current immigration law is being changed radically for the worst. Immigrant Solidarity (IS) believes that it is imperative that pro-immigrant groups react to any proposals to further restrict entry requirements into Ireland. It must be noted that current practice in this regard has been nothing short of racist; the proposed legislation will only worsen this racism.

IS calls for the creation of a broad based national campaign against this proposed Government legislation. We believe that the legislation provides us with an immediate focus for the building of an anti-deportations/pro-immigrant movement in Ireland.

It is our view that this proposed campaign, while opposing the body of the legislation in spirit, should concentrate on a number of key aspects in the proposed legislation as the main platform for a campaign. The following aspects we believe should be central to any campaign:

1. Opposition to the proposal that public servants be required to inform the relevant immigration authorities, i.e. Dept of Justice, of clients whom they suspect are not legally resident in the country. This proposal requires a wide range of workers (including nurses, teachers, social workers, social welfare employees and doctors) to participate in enforcing immigration controls.

2. Opposition to the change in citizenship law whereby one is no longer entitled to citizenship by birthright. What criteria will one now have to fulfil in order to become a citizen?

3. Given the fact that strict regulations already pertain to applications for post-nuptial citizenship, we oppose the introduction of even more stringent regulations. We perceive this move as an attempt by the Government to deter Irish citizens and their non-national spouses from settling in Ireland.

4. Opposition to the proposal to legislate for large-scale deportations.

5. Opposition to the Government's declaration that there will be no amnesty for asylum seekers currently resident in the state.

6. Opposition to the introduction of severe penalties for individuals/companies who employ so-called illegal immigrants.

As has been said above we propose a broad based campaign. By this we mean a campaign that will seek the support of as wide a range of people and organisations as possible in this country. Apart from the main anti-racist and pro-immigrant groups, we should seek the support of trade unions and union branches, student unions, community activist groups and sports groups - in fact any organisations that are prepared to speak out against this legislation are welcome. However, because of point No. 1 above, we propose that a particular effort be made to win over the support of those trade unions who represent workers directly targeted by the Report. We further propose an immediate nation-wide information campaign aimed at raising awareness about the Government's proposals and intent.

The overall campaign, in our view, should have a two pronged strategy:

a) as a first priority, to stop the enactment of this racist legislation

b) failing this, to make the legislation unworkable through an ongoing campaign of worker non-co-operation with its directives.

To begin the work of getting a national campaign underway, we call for a national meeting of all existing anti-racist/pro-immigrant groups and all other interested groups/organisations for late September of this year.

2 September, 1998