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By: Ruth Evans
Information Management and
Communications Officer
Immigrant Council of Ireland

The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) legal strategy was officially launched in late November at an event held to discuss access to justice for migrants.

The ICI has the status of an Independent Law Centre and is the only NGO in the immigration sector to have that status.

At the launch, ICI founder Sr Stanislaus Kennedy called on the legal profession to follow closely the progress of upcoming reforms to immigration legislation in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, which is expected to be published early in the New Year.

Sr Stan said some aspects of current immigration law and policies, and their administration, were unjust and she was concerned that the forthcoming legislation could perpetuate injustice.

“Since its inception, the ICI has worked closely with the legal profession, due to the nature of our work,” Sr Stan said.

“I am aware that many solicitors and barristers have done some outstanding work in this field due to their personal commitment to justice.

“I urge them, and their colleagues in the legal profession, to ensure that barriers to justice for migrants are removed.

“For example, I have mentioned before that I believe aspects of the forthcoming legislation might be anti-family and even unconstitutional. It will be important for those in our community with a commitment to justice to make their concerns known.

“At present, our immigration laws and policies are causing real hardship for families, from bureaucratic barriers keeping family members apart through to difficulties for migrants’ children in accessing education.”

* * *
The ICI was disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision on December 20 relating to applications for permission to remain in Ireland by the parents of Irish born children.

ICI Senior Solicitor Hilkka Becker said that the Supreme court held that the Minister for Justice did not have to consider the constitutional and human rights of an Irish citizen child when processing an application by his or her parent under a specific scheme (the Irish Born Child 2005 Scheme) for permission to stay in the State.

“The Court has said that there is sufficient opportunity to consider the rights of the child after the parent has been issued with a so-called Section 3 letter, informing them that it is the Government’s intention to deport them,” Ms Becker said.

“At that point, when the parent is able to give reasons why they should not be deported, the Government must consider the child’s rights under the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Our concern is that, at that point, there is no independent appeal if the parent is refused permission to stay. And we feel that people should not be forced on to the verge of deportation before they can have an opportunity to seek the vindication of their rights as a family.”

Ms Becker said the ICI has been lobbying for the Government to establish an independent appeals mechanism for immigration decisions, in line with a commitment given in its Programme for Government.

Also, because the Supreme Court decision effectively meant that Irish children’s rights would now not need to be considered until his or her parent was threatened with deportation, the ICI has repeated its call on the Government to set out clearly in law migrants’ rights to family life within Ireland.

* * *
The ICI was also involved in a case in December involving a US international student and the Government’s decision not renew her permission to stay in Ireland unless her four-year-old son was taken out of a State-funded primary school.

Ms Becker represented the student, Erin Britton, in a High Court application for a judicial review of the decision.

The High Court granted Mrs Britton leave to apply for a judicial review of the Government’s decision on December 17.

On December 18, the Garda National Immigration Bureau contacted Mrs Britton, informing her that her residence permit would be renewed, which occurred the next day.

“We are delighted for the Brittons,” Ms Becker said.

“However, the ICI hopes the Government will now take the same commonsense approach to other international students in a similar position.”

Mrs Britton came to Ireland to study a two-year masters programme in medieval studies at NUI Galway in 2006 and was not told before she came here, or on her arrival, that a condition of her permission to stay was that her son must not attend a State school.

“We would urge the Government to apply the same rules in Ireland as apply in the UK, where a child of an international student is permitted to receive a State education while a parent is studying there, provided the child leaves the country when the parent completes their studies,” Ms Becker said.

26 October 2010   


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