News/IRELAND: IMMIGRATION BILL PROPOSES JAILING ILLEGAL TRAFFICK

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Subject: News/IRELAND: IMMIGRATION BILL PROPOSES JAILING ILLEGAL TRAFFICK
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Sat Nov 27 1999 - 12:54:38 EST


11-25-99 REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: IMMIGRATION BILL PROPOSES JAILING ILLEGAL
TRAFFICKERS.
Those behind illegal immigration into the State could face an unlimited
fine or up to 10 years imprisonment or both, under legislation introduced
in the Dail by the Minister for Justice. It provides on summary conviction
for a fine not exceeding #1,500 or a prison sentence of not more than a
year, or both.
Mr O'Donoghue stressed that the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill was
aimed at the traffickers, not at the immigrants. Mr O'Donoghue said under
the Bill, a court may order the forfeiture of the means of transport used
for trafficking in illegal immigrants. He was also considering, he said,
whether to impose responsibility on carriers to ensure they brought into
the State only those passengers who were legally entitled to come here.
Statistics, he added, showed that 82 per cent of all asylum-applicants were
made not at the ports but inland. "One might expect a percentage of
applications to be made inland by terrified people fleeing persecution -
that is why our procedures and legislation makes inland applications
possible.
"However, where the bulk of our applications are being made inland, it is
difficult to avoid the conclusion that applicants are being smuggled across
our borders in an organised, clandestine way by unscrupulous people." The
level of applicants for asylum had increased from 424 in 1995 to 4,626 last
year, he said. "At the end of October this year, we had received 5,497
applications. The numbers applying monthly this year are indicative of this
spiral. We had 234 applications in January, but this figure had jumped
dramatically to over 1,000 in October. This sort of increase does not occur
by accident and is further indicative of the involvement of commercial
traffickers."
However, Mr O'Donoghue said, concern had been expressed in some quarters
that the wording used in the Bill was too broad and could encompass the
activities of bona fide organisations who assisted asylum-seekers. He was
prepared, therefore, to listen sympathetically to what deputies had to say
and consider if redrafting was necessary. The Fine Gael spokesman on
justice, Mr Jim Higgins, said the consequences of the legislation should be
put in perspective.
"Under this legislation, for example, and if the US decided to invoke the
full rigours of the measures we are about to introduce, the dozens of Aer
Lingus planes which ferried thousands of young undocumented Irish to the US
in the 1980s and early 1990s would be impounded and forfeited, the Aer
Lingus personnel could be fined up to #1,500 and get up to 12 months in
prison for knowingly facilitating the passage of these people. Is this
Minister saying that this would have been justified?" "One has to
acknowledge that human trafficking is a problem. It has to be tackled. One
hates to see innocent people ripped off and exploited, but there is a
downside. One has to make an explicit distinction between those who exploit
refugees for commercial purposes and those who are genuinely concerned with
refugees and their welfare."
The Labour spokesman on justice, Mr Brendan Howlin, said there was a need
for additional powers and penalties to penalise those who, for financial
gain, exploited vulnerable people seeking refuge in the State. "However,
this Bill makes absolutely no distinction between professional traffickers
and people who may, for humanitarian or personal reasons, assist the entry
into this country of whose who should qualify for refugee status. If this
Bill is allowed to pass unamended, I can see it creating difficulties for
organisations that work with refugees and asylum-seekers."
Mr John Gormley (Green Party, Dublin South East) said his party would be
putting down amendments at committee stage to counter any ill-effects on
immigrants and those who sought to help them. If the Bill was enacted
without major amendment, it would make it more difficult for asylum-seekers
to reach Ireland, he added. Amnesty International, the UN High Commission
for Refugees, the Irish Refugee Council, and other such groups, had
continually warned against the use of "carrier sanctions", such as provided
in the Bill.
IRISH TIMES 25/11/1999 P9

Melanie Orhant

morhant@igc.org
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