|Political commitment needed on genuine Immigration Reform in new Dáil term||15 Jan 2014|
|PSNI recording 700% more racist incidents than Gardaí||13 Jan 2014|
|Huge level of applicants shows real opportunity for a diverse police force||08 Jan 2014|
|New Family Reunification Guidelines Fail To Resolve Many Issues||08 Jan 2014|
|Sex buyer laws drafted||06 Jan 2014|
|Young people in frontline of racism||06 Jan 2014|
|New family reunification guidelines are welcome||06 Jan 2014|
|New Immigration Bill must lead to genuine reforms in 2014||06 Jan 2014|
5-year legislative delay leaving too many families living in limbo
2014 must be year when Ireland takes modern approach to immigration
Statement by Immigrant Council of Ireland
Politicians of all sides must mark the start of the new Dáil term by making a commitment to end a 5-year delay in delivering immigration reform, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
The Council says failure to honour past commitments has left too many Irish citizens, migrants and their families living in limbo.
It has expressed the hope that a newly published Immigration, Residency and Protection Bill will ensure that people have access to a modern, efficient and transparent immigration service with a right to an independent appeal of decisions.
Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland:
“After delays, false starts and broken promises there is now a real opportunity to deliver real reforms which will finally bring clarity and stability to people who have made a commitment to Ireland and call this country home.
We are asking all politicians to ensure that 2014 will not be another lost opportunity and to ensure that the new bill will introduce reforms which will have a real positive impact on people’s lives.
At the Immigrant Council of Ireland we have highlighted a wide-range of measures which we would like to see included, key priorities include:
- The introduction of an independent appeals mechanism for decisions on immigration and visa applications
- The introduction of clear guidelines and regulations to replace an over-reliance on discretion
- The right to family reunification to be recognised once certain conditions are met
- The introduction of determination procedures for the recognition of stateless persons
- Proper protections for victims of human trafficking through the introduction of residence permits where the their stay is necessary owing to their personal situation
- The introduction of permanent residency as opposed to long-term residency
Ireland is using all its political and diplomatic influence to deliver immigration reforms in the United States, now it is time to identify our own shortfalls and make sure they are corrected.
Like any modern democracy, our citizens and those who want to establish a home in Ireland, should expect a system with clear guidelines, transparency as well as an accessible independent appeals system when applications are turned down.”
Hilkka Becker, Senior Solicitor with the Immigrant Council added:
“As an Independent Law Centre we see at first hand the confusion, frustration and hurt caused by an immigration system which is cumbersome, lacks transparency and places an over-reliance on discretion.
Family reunification remains one of our busiest areas of work and it is important that this bill is used to bring Ireland into line with other European countries and replace a system which for many simply does not work.
Irish citizens and migrants living here should have a right to live with their loved ones once certain conditions are met.
In addition protections need to be provided to people reliant on their spouse to remain in the country, and more favourable provisions need to be introduced to allow for the consideration of the situation of single parents, victims of domestic violence, and those left alone as a result of the death of their spouse or partner.
Across the immigration system people must have access to an independent appeals mechanism and not have to resort to lengthy and expensive court challenges.
As the Oireachtas returns the opportunity has arrived for genuine change, it is our hope that the coming months will see real political leadership on these important issues.”
Fears many victims are suffering in silence
Immigrant Council of Ireland calls for Independent Reporting System
Statement by Immigrant Council of Ireland
Reports of racism are running up to 700% higher in Northern Ireland than those in the South leading to fears that many victims are still choosing to suffer in silence rather than come forward, according to a review of figures carried out by the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
The Council says the disparity raises very serious questions about the way incidents are recorded by Gardaí and the Department of Justice and suggest a lot of racism is going unreported.
In one year, 2009, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, recorded 1,038 incidents while the figure for the same period in the South was just 128. (Full breakdown of figures and reports from Department of Justice and PSNI in Editors Note below)
Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said:
“It is clear from an examination of the figures for racism and hate crime between the two legal jurisdictions that there is a huge gap in the level of reports.
The history of sectarian incidents in Northern Ireland does not account for this disparity as such crimes are recorded separately.
The figures do support previous research by the Immigrant Council of Ireland that racism in Ireland is going unreported, with victims reluctant to come forward because of fears they will be regarded as troublemakers, that their complaint will not be taken serious or because of previous experience with corrupt police forces in their country of birth.
Through our own reporting system, firstname.lastname@example.org , we recorded an 85% increase in cases during the past 12 months.
In light of these latest findings we are repeating our call for the introduction of an independent reporting system where victims can come forward with confidence and be assured that they will be offered support and advice.
It should be noted that in the North, victims have access to a 24 hour online reporting system operated by the PSNI – where they can detail and categorise the nature of the crime.
As a country we cannot continue to ignore the abuse, threats and even violence being carried out against people in our local communities, on our streets, at work, on sports fields and many other places.
It is time for Ireland to send out a message that in 2014 there is no acceptable level of racism.
Opportunity for a force which reflects modern Ireland has arrived
Applicants reminded closing date is Thursday
Statement by Immigrant Council of Ireland
Confirmation that over 20,000 applicants have been received for the current Garda recruitment drive is to be welcomed and shows that there is now a real opportunity to deliver a force which reflects the communities which it serves, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of the Council said:
“The re-commencement of Garda requirement is welcome news for everyone who has their dreams of a policing career put on hold. We now have a chance for the force to act on its existing commitment to diversity:
‘An Garda Síochána is committed to creating a police service that is fully representative of all Ireland’s diverse communities. An equal opportunities employer, it actively encourages applications from members of all segments of Irish society.’ (source: www.garda.ie)
People granted Irish Citizenship, those from the EU or EEA as well as people with refugee status or who have spent five years legally living here under certain criteria are all eligible to join provided they meet all other requirements.
Ahead of the deadline we would ask recruiters to ensure their campaign is actively promoted amongst migrants and minorities and the Immigrant Council is encouraging anyone with an interest in a career in policing to apply. The deadline is midnight on Thursday.
A diverse force will build relationships and trust with people who do not report crimes because of fears they will regarded as trouble-makers, that their residency status will be affected or because of past experiences of corrupt police forces in their country of birth.
After 5 years, the opportunity to start building that diverse force has arrived.”
Government Guidelines must mark beginning of process of reform
Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland
New Family Reunification Guidelines published by the Government leave several important issues unresolved and will not bring clarity to many Irish citizens and legal migrants who have been separated from their loved ones, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
The Council has been examining the 71-pages of guidelines since they were published on New Year’s Eve and has asked that the document would form the basis for further reforms in 2014.
A number of areas of concern have been highlighted by the Council which it wants addressed in order to ensure that Ireland comes into line with other European Countries.
Hilkka Becker, Senior Solicitor with the Immigrant Council of Ireland said:
“While we welcome the publication of the Guidelines on Family Reunification as a positive first step, it is our view that it should mark the start of a process of genuine reforms which will make a real difference in the lives of people legally living in Ireland.
Unfortunately the Guidelines on their own will offer little comfort to many who want to reunite their families.
Areas of concern include:
- Excessive income requirements for sponsors which rank as the second highest in a group of European Member States surveyed by the Immigrant Council of Ireland in 2013, with some applicants’ earnings required to be €1,000 above the median equivalent net income.
- Imposed family separations with new Irish residency requirement for sponsors of up to 5-years depending on immigration status
- Need to submit original documentation including passports to Irish embassies abroad, often involving long journeys sometimes across several countries
- Continuing restrictions on international students to apply except in undefined ‘limited exceptions’
- Difficulties for partners to qualify as a ‘De Facto’ couple given requirement for 2 years co-habitation
- Financial requirements will be unachievable for many people with disabilities, older people and single parents
- The setting of ‘refusal’ as the default position for reunification with elderly parents
- Financial requirements for sponsors of elderly parents will confine this category to the top earners bracket (€60,000 per annum after tax for 1 parent)
- The imposition of a 7-year time limit between applications for spouses imposes undue restrictions in the event of marriage breakdown
- Lack of clarity regarding the recognition of foreign marriages
- Work restrictions on spouses of legal migrants creating an undue dependency and increased vulnerability
Other concerns include contradictory language within the guidelines and the inclusion of undefined exceptions which is again leading to a lack of clarity.
There are also positives in the document, with a commitment to provide reasons for refusals and the introduction of an internal appeals mechanism.
It is important for our citizens and migrants legally living here that the remaining issues are addressed so as their basic right to be with the ones they love is protected.”
Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, added:
“We have engaged positively with successive Government’s on this important issue and have welcomed the commitment of Minister Alan Shatter, TD to bring transparency and clarity.
The publication of the guidelines is an important first step.
Our efforts will now continue for a modern efficient immigration system with an independent appeals mechanism through which decisions refusing family reunification can be challenged outside of the High Court.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland looks forward to working with politicians from all sides to have those addressed in 2014, in particular in the context of discussions surrounding the Immigrant, Residency and Protection Bill which is expected to pass all stages this year.”
Sex buyer laws drafted
Draft text forwarded to political leaders
Statement by Immigrant Council of Ireland
A draft law which would introduce fines from €1,000 for buyers of sex has been drafted by the Immigrant Council of Ireland and is being forwarded to all party leaders for urgent consideration.
The proposed legislation also includes penalties from €500 for requesting the purchase of sex.
The Council says it is taking the move as the 18 month anniversary of a Government Review of the Laws on Prostitution is reached today (Dec 27th) without any legislation being considered.
The Immigrant Council has marked the anniversary by publishing text of planned offences which it has drafted with full legal support.
The offences planned are:
1. (1). Any person who requests, agrees to, contracts for, the obtaining of sexual services by means of prostitution shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) It is immaterial whether the request, agreement or contract is made with the person who is to provide the sexual service or with another.
(3) It is immaterial whether the sexual service is to be provided to the person who has made the request, agreement or contract for the obtaining the said sexual service or is to be provided to another person.
(4) It is immaterial where in the world the sexual service is to be provided
(5) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to:
a) A fine not exceeding €500 on first conviction
b) A fine not exceeding €1000 on second conviction
c) A fine not exceeding €1500 and/or a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 3 months in the case of a third or subsequent conviction
2. (1). A person who obtains a sexual service by means of prostitution shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) It is immaterial whether the payment or promise of payment is made with the person who is to provide the sexual service or with another.
(3) It is immaterial where in the world the payment is to be made or has been made
(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to:
a) A fine not exceeding €1000 on first conviction
b) A fine not exceeding €3000 and/or a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months in the case of a second or subsequent conviction
Denise Charlton Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said:
Sex buyer laws enjoy huge public and political support with 68 organisations, a unanimous report from the Oireachtas Justice Committee, 3 of the 4 largest political parties and 21 local councils all behind the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign. However, a lack of political leadership has allowed pimps and traffickers to continue business as usual.
The fact that the Government Review of the Laws on Prostitution is now 18 months old with no action taken is shameful and a betrayal of the 48 trafficking victims found in Ireland during that period, of which 19 were children in commercial sex.
We are marking the anniversary by taking the initiative of providing a draft text which will be forwarded to all party leaders in the New Year.
The Immigrant Council believes this text coupled with the Justice Committee Recommendations is a blueprint for action.
It can be used as part of a specific bill or an amendment to the Sexual Offences Bill, which the Government is already planning for 2014.
Nusha Yonkova, Anti-Trafficking Co-ordinator with the Immigrant Council added:
The penalties we have outlined in our prepared text are in line with those in other European countries, and in particular those passed by the French National Assembly earlier this month.
Ireland now has an opportunity to join those countries which are standing up to a 25 billion euro criminal network which exploits 600,000 people every year. Our political leaders need to seize this moment and ensure we are no longer a high profit low risk destination for pimps.
17% of perpetrators and 8% of victims are under-18
Youngest victim was 3-years old
School holidays represent peak period for racism reports
Young people have been placed in the frontline of racism in Ireland both as perpetrators and victims according to new end of year figures produced by the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
A breakdown of the incidents reported to the Council during 2013 shows that 17% of perpetrators and 8% of victims are under the age of 18-years-old.
The findings also confirm that racist incidents throughout the year peaked during school holiday periods, in particular during the summer months.
A total of 144 incidents were reported to the Council during 2013, an increase of 85% on the 78 reported incidents in 2012.
A breakdown of the reports of incident to email@example.com show:
· Age of perpetrators: 63% were adults, 17% under 18 and 20% unspecified
· Age of victims: 78% were adults, 8% under 18 and 14% with no age given
· Gender of perpetrators: 49% male, 24% female, 27% unspecified
· Gender of victims: 56% male, 39% female, 5% unspecified
The figures again confirm that verbal and written abuse accounts for most forms of racism (52%) followed by discrimination (24%) and physical violence (9%).
Denise Charlton , Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said:
"The detailed breakdown of our 2013 figures highlight a number of areas of concern, in particular the involvement of young people both as victims and perpetrators, with periods around school holidays now representing the busiest for our frontline services.
It is worth noting that July was by far the busiest month with 31 incidents, while other periods corresponded with midterm periods around Halloween with 18 reports in November and St Patrick's Day when 15 reports were received in March.
To ignore this trend amongst our young people is not only wrong but dangerous. Students, parents and teachers all have a role to ensure that racism is kept out of our classrooms, playgrounds and sporting arenas.
Each school is required to produce and implement an anti-bullying policy, and we believe this must include measures to prevent racism. Earlier this year we produced a template policy to assist schools and as the holidays come to an end we would again invite parents and teachers to ensure their students can study and play in safety."
Immigrant Council to monitor implementation of guidelines
Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland
The publication of new Family Reunification Guidelines by the Government is welcome but can only be properly judged when Irish citizens and migrants legally living here who are separated from family members are reunited with their loved ones, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
The Council is welcoming the commitment to make the system clearer for those who have been torn apart from family members, which is difficult throughout the year but particularly during the current holiday season.
Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said:
While the 71-page of guidelines published by the Government will take some time to study, it is a step in the right direction which will offer hope to those who have been cut off from family members.
A commitment made to transparency and consistent is particularly welcome in a system which often seemed unclear, contradictory and confusing.
We accept that the measures involved may take some time to roll out, but are also asking the Minister for Justice to ensure that this is not a long drawn out process.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland will monitor the impact of the new guidelines over the coming months with a view to establishing whether they have led to improvements and amount to genuine reform.
Vulnerable people, fees and transparency must be immigration priorities
Publication of annual review shows welcome progress in other areas
Statement by Immigrant Council of Ireland
Vulnerable people, such as victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and stateless persons, must be priorities for future immigration reforms according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
The Council is welcoming the Government’s publication of ‘Immigration in Ireland – 2013 in Review’ but says there are still many outstanding areas to be addressed.
Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council, added:
“While 2013 was a year of progress it is clear there are still issues to be resolved. We are asking the Government in particular to focus on vulnerable groups of people.
The failure to provide residency entitlements to victims of domestic violence in immigration law is leaving people trapped in violent relationships because of fears they could be deported. Ireland has also been criticised internationally during the year for failing to provide proper, safe and secure accommodation for victims of human trafficking, while stateless persons are too often left living in limbo.
Excessive fees remain an obstacle for those people who want to call Ireland home, the €300 Garda registration fee for individuals is placing a burden on many families particularly where multiple fees may apply. While the cost of becoming a citizen remains close to €1,200.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland is anxious to see how family reunification guidelines published last week will work in practice and if they will lead to a clearer system and more people being reunited with their loved ones. We will be monitoring the implementation of the new guidelines in the weeks ahead.”
Senior Solicitor with the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Hilkka Becker, added:
“The move to mutual recognition for short-term visas between Ireland and the UK envisaged for 2014 would be a positive step to bring clarity to a situation which has caused widespread confusion for migrants travelling between the South and the North of Ireland.
The refusal of entry to 1,890 at the border is a matter of continuing concern, especially in a situation where it is now 2 and a half years since the High Court highlighted that the failure to provide visa facilities at points of entry to the country, leaving people with no option but to turn around, was in breach of EU law. This is an issue which must be addressed.
2014 has the potential to be a breakthrough year for genuine immigration reform in Ireland, we are committed to work with politicians from all sides to ensure that the new Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill will lead to positive change to the benefit of migrants, Irish citizens and our future economic success.”