Written Answers. - Deportation Orders.

John Gormley

Question:

806 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that the political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is such that the safety of asylum seekers deported to that country can be guaranteed in view of recent reports of massacres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1293/99]

John Gormley

Question:

807 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the number of deportation orders issued to asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past six months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1294/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 806 and 807 together.

While it has not been the practice to specify the nationality of persons deported, I can confirm that no deportation orders have issued to nationals of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the period referred to by the Deputy.

As the Deputy will be aware, the statutory provision on which my power to make deportation orders is based has been held to be unconstitutional by the High Court. However, I hope to be in a position to publish, in a matter of days, draft legislation which will provide a legal basis for deportations. My reply to the Deputy's questions is based on the policy that has been followed up to now and which I will continue to follow if the Oireachtas enacts this draft legislation.

The question of returning a person who has claimed asylum to their country of origin will only arise when, having had full access to the asylum determination process, that person has not shown that they qualify for refugee status. Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 specifically prohibits the return of a person to a territory where the life or freedom of that person would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership or a particular social group or political opinion.

The political situation in any country of origin, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, is of course a most important factor in the asylum determination process and it is essential that such information is researched and the latest position is known in detail. In this regard my Department obtains information from,inter alia, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Amnesty International reports, the media and other EU member states.

A person whose asylum claim has failed an appeal is in any event given a final opportunity to make representations to me as to why he or she should not be returned to his or her country of origin. I can assure the Deputy that in all such cases every consideration will be given to the situation pertaining in the country of origin and I will continue to exercise my discretion under any new legislation in such circumstances as appropriate.