Increased diversity in Ireland provides opportunities for all society
Opportunities for all of society to benefit from increased diversity could be lost without clear political leadership, the Immigrant Council of Ireland warned today as it launched its 2016 Impact Report. The organisation revealed it supported more than 4,600 migrants during 2016, addressing immigration queries, supporting victims of trafficking and promoting effective integration.
Brian Killoran, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said, “In 2016 the Immigrant Council supported more than 4,600 migrants seeking support. The issues addressed were very broad-ranging and saw us investigating immigration queries, supporting trafficking victims to access justice and helping migrant children navigate the complex system.
“We continued to dedicate our energies towards particularly vulnerable situations: including victims of domestic abuse, trafficking and the residence status of young people. Cases like Charlotte, a victim of trafficking who lost years of her life trying to navigate a massively complex immigration system, even after escaping the horror of sexual exploitation. Or Anita, who became undocumented and whose life was put on hold simply because no one told her she had to register before she turned 18.”
John Cunningham, Chair of the Board of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said, “During 2016 issues relating to migration dominated the headlines, a situation that will continue into 2017 and beyond. Ireland takes full advantage of globalisation when it comes to economic interests; it must step up to the responsibilities too. A few simple steps would make the world of difference – not just to ensure a fairer system for new arrivals, but also ensuring Irish society can enjoy the maximum benefits of migration.
“In order to do this we must improve access to safe, legal pathways into Ireland such as expanding family reunification criteria and building on the new Community Sponsorship Refugee Programme announced this week. Providing clear processes for new arrivals, including standardised systems for acquiring residents permits for both children and adults, plus ensuring necessary supports, including safe and gender-specific accommodation for victims of trafficking, must be established.
“As the census revealed yesterday Ireland is already diverse, with over half a million non-Irish nationals from more than 200 different nations living here. We also need political prioritisation of integration programmes, including investment in local integration strategies which break down barriers and build stronger communities.”
Case study 1 CHARLOTTE*
Charlotte was trafficked from Nigeria to Spain and later to Ireland for the purpose of exploitation in prostitution. She had been promised work as a hairdresser in Europe. She was in forced prostitution for four years before she escaped in 2010, was driven to Dublin and applied for asylum. She provided statements to the Gardaí about her experiences of being trafficked, which led to an arrest being made. When her application for asylum was refused, she brought judicial review proceedings challenging the decision. Court delays meant Charlotte was waiting for her case to be heard for a number of years. During this time, she was living in direct provision. Under Irish policy, Charlotte could not be formally identified as both a victim of trafficking and seek asylum. This is not in line with EU or international law, or practice in other countries. Charlotte instructed the Immigrant Council of Ireland to halt her High Court proceedings reviewing her asylum application and instead apply to be formally identified as a victim of trafficking. Ultimately this bid was successful and Charlotte was given permission to reside in Ireland.
Charlotte later applied for subsidiary protection for herself and her daughter, which was successful only on appeal. The Tribunal was reminded of the heinous reality of her experience - the fact she had been debt-bonded, that she was considered to still owe her traffickers money and that her trafficker had carried out attacks on her sons (who still live in Nigeria). The Tribunal concluded that there were substantial grounds for believing that she would face a real risk of serious harm in the form of re-trafficking or sexual abuse if returned to Nigeria.
This finally happened six long years since Charlotte first provided detailed statements to the Gardaí and applied for the protection of the Irish State. During that time, her children left behind in Nigeria grew from boys to young men, and she no longer has a right to family reunification with them. They can still apply, but their visa applications will be considered under the general criteria.
Case study 2 ANITA*
Anita came to Ireland as a child with her parents. She did not know that she needed to register with Garda National Immigration Bureau when she turned 16. Believing such an obligation existed only from the age of 18, she attended with all relevant documentation as soon as she turned 18. She was told that she was two years late and would need to write to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. She did so, writing numerous letters to the relevant section, but received no reply. She could not afford legal advice. Her undocumented status meant that she faced difficulties pursuing her university course and in accessing housing support when her family became homeless.
The Immigrant Council got involved and when they wrote to the Department of Justice Anita was granted permission to reside in Ireland.
*Names have been changed