Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I thank the Chair for this opportunity to speak on this important issue, which, as a Deputy representing Dublin North, is close to my heart. The issues surrounding integration, permission to remain in the State and the right to work here are enormously important not only to my constituency, but to all other constituencies. Put simply, this is the consequence of having a vibrant country with a healthy economy. For whatever reasons, Ireland is a desirable place to live for all incoming migrants and, for Ireland, many of these inward migrants are desirable to the State. Our economy needs them as much as they need us.

Parts of our economy would have difficulty operating without the contribution of our immigrants. The Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, mentioned the health services, but what about culinary enterprises, construction and the service industry? We cannot deny that the success which today attracts more migrants than ever before has been the result of the hard work of many a pioneering immigrant who came here in the 1980s, 1990s and during this decade.

Many Members will be more than familiar with the immigration situation in Fingal, particularly in the northern regions around Balbriggan, which I represent. The challenges surrounding the issue of migrants and their rights which are facing my constituency are manifold and replicated throughout Ireland. With 10% of the population now represented by immigrants, it is vital that we take this time to consider their rights.

It is with great relief that I welcome this Bill, which will streamline and set in stone the rights of incoming migrants. Every step in the journey to becoming an Irish resident is involved, from eligibility and application processes to the type of permission granted and, if necessary, the scope for appeal. The legislative framework set out in the Bill will replace all current legislation, establishing transparent processes for every phase of the immigration cycle and seeing an end to the greyness and vagueness of the current system. My colleagues will agree that the existing system is outdated. That was inevitable when some of the legislation dated back to the 1930s.

This is the cause of much anxiety, frustration and confusion for applicants and the public representatives they often visit for assistance in completing their applications. This overhaul is much needed and applicants deserve a system, such as this one, which is clear and concise. The current system does not do the country any justice and these changes are long overdue. The new proposals set out in the Bill will bring a great deal of relief to those applying for permission to remain in the State, with straightforward admissions policies and migrant-management now being the way forward.

Similarly, our citizens should also welcome these new measures and remain confident in the belief that the legislation will continue to protect Irish borders in the way provisions in place were structured and attempted to do. The temptation exists to give the right to work to every migrant knocking at our door and to offer asylum to every person coming from an area of conflict. This is especially the case for Members who every week see many tearful people presenting themselves in their clinics seeking help. However, the State needs to remain responsible in its management of migrants. It is far better to use a considered and efficient process such as that proposed in the Bill now rather than deal with the implications of a free-for-all immigration policy some 20 or 30 years down the line. We need to learn from the experiences of the British and French who have each experienced decades of racial tension because of their ill-thought out immigration policies.

As already mentioned by the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, this new comprehensive legislation protects both the applicant and the State. This protection is further strengthened through the use of a bond system which is designed to reduce risk of abuse for family members of current immigrants visiting the country. The bond system will see visitors on visas pay a large sum of money which will be returned upon the person's departure from the State. This will ensure that the conditions attached to the visa will be complied with.

Another protection introduced is the power of the State to deport those remaining in the State illegally. This replaces the lengthy process which currently needs to be gone through before a person can be removed. However, our caution should not preclude us from rewarding those migrants who, over the years, have contributed greatly to the State, bearing in mind that the Bill's emphasis is on fairness. As such, I welcome the plan to introduce a new long-term residence status, giving many of the rights of citizens to those living in Ireland for at least five years. It rewards the contribution made and rewards the applicant with stability.

We risk a great deal by not protecting these immigrant workers now and convincing them to remain here. We are currently haemorrhaging nurses; many Filipino medics who trained in Ireland are now emigrating to Canada. Long-established east European construction specialists are in the same boat. I have just learned that FÁS is holding a conference in Croke Park next week for different employment groups and a number of east European employment agencies will be represented there with the aim of luring these workers back to the countries from which they came.

I am sure some of them are Cork footballers and hurlers.

The Chair need not worry, I am sure they will grace Croke Park.

I am sure the Deputy is delighted——

——that perhaps they will be facing the Dubs in a future game in Croke Park.

These overseas bodies are coming to Ireland specifically to target the emigrants who have come here. It is right that we should act to ensure these people remain here where they have been trained and because we can offer them a good standard of living. These people will benefit from the Bill.

I welcome particularly the plan to accelerate the applications of current work-permit holders and migrants with much sought-after skills for long-term residency. I instance nurses, skilled labourers and chefs. This is a healthy progression from the current system and I welcome the consideration being given to the theory that there are and will be jobs that Irish citizens, for whatever reason, are unwilling to take up. There are also high-skilled jobs that might better suit a new resident here who would have more skills than perhaps an Irish citizen. I refer to specialised chef who cannot be replaced by an Irish trained cook. We need only consider the popularity of Thai, Indian and Chinese restaurants here to imagine the demand for such foreign chefs.

I applaud the reasoned and cautious additional eligibility requirements, namely, that the applicant be tax compliant, that he or she have a reasonable command of English or Irish and that the person has made reasonable efforts to integrate himself or herself. I appeal to the Minister to examine the possibility of allocating funds for language provision, as it is regarded as a vital tool for incoming immigrants. I also welcome the new categories of permission which give groups of people with varying circumstances and eligibility the right to remain in the State on tailor-made permissions.

Section 127 of the Bill sets out the various categories of permission and conditions attached. These start with a 90-day visitor's permission category, which will state whether a person is further eligible to apply for residence permission. These measures will make clear at point of entry a person's rights with regard to further applications. I hope all Members will note there is far more scope than ever in place for a person to get permission to remain in the State.

The reforms to the asylum application process are also positive and will surely be welcomed by applicants. Not only is the process now finally enshrined into law, with the assimilation into the Bill of the EU asylum procedures directive, but the new process presents itself as streamlined and more straightforward.

The long-winded, over-complex nature of the existing system surely adds to the agony of waiting for a decision to be made. The long delays experienced at the moment can often add weight to a negative decision and in some unrelated cases, abuse. No one likes to admit it, but can one not imagine the temptation to abscond facing an applicant who has been waiting quite a long time for a decision? Streamlining the system now will give applicants for asylum a decision within a shorter timeframe. A single procedure wherein the applicant presents his or her grounds to remain in the State is provided for in the Bill, with the outcome of the decision now coming from the Irish nationality and immigration service, which deals with all other permission issues. The clarity of the new asylum process should also lead to fewer legal contests.

The procedures being introduced bring our system into line with those of many other European countries, achieving a sense of cohesion and familiarity for asylum seekers across Europe. The decision will be made quickly, with an efficiency hitherto not witnessed in the State and within a system which also reduces the risk of abuse. Of course the Irish State wants to provide protection, but we need to ensure we are protecting those in need and not just seeking better economic circumstances or schools. I note the clarification offered in the Bill on the subject of visas, which pre-clear visitors, but do not grant permission alone. I am happy to see the Minister has made it clear that visas are used solely for pre-clearance and the status of "visa-free" countries will continue unless the migrant's visit extends over three months, at which point he or she will require a visa. This system will give visitors clarity and certainty as regards entry into the country.

I particularly welcome the changes being brought in regarding victims of human trafficking. The Bill provides for a period of recovery and reflection for the victims of human trafficking with the Minister having discretionary powers to extend this. This is a compassionate measure in recognition of the fact that a victim's emotional trauma could be exacerbated by demands to quit the country. Giving the person a set period during which he or she can recover sufficiently in order to return home is a responsible act, which gives special recognition to the horrific trauma experienced by the applicant. The measures also give more scope for victims to come forward, safe in the knowledge that no one is going to be showing them the door. I ask the Minister and the relevant committee to re-examine the Bill, however, with a view to providing for child victims of human trafficking and for children seeking asylum, so as to protect their rights as much as possible.

I presume the cost of running this new system of immigration management will save some of the enormous amount of money being pumped into the existing system. I ask that any savings be used to address some of the issues facing new immigrants once their permission has been granted. As previously mentioned, I continue to urge the Minister to give some thought to the issue of language provision for those who have been granted permission to remain in the State on a long-term basis. I see language as a crucial barrier to integration and any provision of funding for classes, or departmental grand aid would make enormous difference to the lives of immigrants and those who surround them.

I also want to stress the need for an annual review of the system to ensure it can be tailored to meet challenges as they evolve. This will iron out anomalies as they arise and hopefully allow us to continue to provide the finest immigration policy possible.

Everybody in the House will welcome this Bill and the opportunity to debate the issues surrounding immigration and integration. As Deputy Kennedy has outlined every public representative will have met people on a daily basis seeking asylum or refugee status, wanting to bring in family members, looking for work permits or whatever. It is very distressing for people and it is difficult for public representatives such as myself who are restricted as to what can be done for people other than to offer them a map through the system as it exists.

We have had an influx of immigrants because the economy is so successful, we are told. Ireland, too, has a history of emigration and on the whole Irish people have sympathy for immigrants and want to see them dealt with in a fair, open and transparent fashion. Irish citizens wish to know, too, what the rights of immigrants are so that everyone knows where they stand. We have been asking for this for a long time.

If one wants to get into the United States, one has to have the correct documentation in place, even for a short stay. We are very familiar with the story of the undocumented Irish in the United States. The work permit system in place there is accepted, however, as regards whether a spouse is allowed to live in the US or how long one may be entitled to stay, whether on holiday or for a prescribed work period. It is clear and documented and people treat the system with respect. We certainly hope the situation of the undocumented Irish in the United States can be resolved.

In the last ten years we have seen an enormous influx of immigrants into Ireland. We have moved from being a country where formerly the emphasis was on emigration to one where it is on immigration. I certainly hope Ireland will continue to attract immigrants for the foreseeable future, as we need the skills they can bring. We need an efficient workforce and we need to value the contribution immigrants can make to Irish society, whether they come from inside or outside the European Union. This Bill refers in particular to people from outside Europe. In the last five years more than 100,000 people from outside the European Economic Area have come to this State for employment purposes. That is in addition to the significant numbers who have come to Ireland seeking asylum, refugee status or for study purposes. Principally people come here for work purposes or to seek asylum. The number of work permit applications has decreased since 2005, and the number of work permit refusals has remained fairly constant. People seeking work permits come mainly from India, the Philippines, South Africa, the United States and Malaysia. We recently had discussions in the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment on the whole area of skills and the need to upgrade training in Ireland. Employers in the information technology area, looking for computer graduates, invariably have to go outside the European Economic Area to source qualified people. We are now getting many people from Eastern Europe, but nonetheless, there is a dependence on foreign nationals from outside the EEA to work in the IT sector. Ireland is certainly not producing sufficient graduates in this area.

The numbers applying for asylum have been reducing gradually, but the numbers being refused have remained constant, at just under 70%, which is relatively high. The fact it takes so long to come to a decision on asylum has caused great hardship in many cases. As has been mentioned by previous speakers, people may have been in the country for a long time because it takes such an age for their asylum application to be processed. The children go to school and make their first holy communion and some may be doing State examinations. I refer to the case of a boy who was prevented from sitting the leaving certificate examination because his asylum application was not successful. These are difficult and personal cases and nobody wants to see such a situation arise. It is a matter of speeding up the asylum application process by ensuring the necessary resources are in place to deal with the applicants. It is a tragic situation when people are left waiting for a decision for many years and if the decision goes against them they will invariably appeal that decision which takes a long time. By that stage they have become accustomed to the nature of Irish society and it can be extremely difficult for them.

I stress the importance of integration but it has not always been successful in other EU states and we can learn lessons from other countries. People should not be corralled into geographical areas or into certain types of employment. They should be provided with language support and with support to help them integrate into this society.

I have first-hand experience of our school system as it operates in many schools across Cork. The schools are doing very well especially with the young children. The children sitting next to them are children like themselves and they act as they do. This supports integration because language is not a problem for the very young children whereas it is problematic for their parents who have neither the language support nor the language services. This is an area which requires intervention. Teachers need to be supported when dealing with older children who do not speak English which is the predominant language in this country. Older children should be given language support so that they can participate in class. These are issues to do with integration. We must ensure that people living here who have been granted Irish citizenship are facilitated in integrating as it will benefit us all in the long term.

I welcome some of the provisions of the Bill. The existing legislation dates back to the 1930s and there is a need to modernise it. Integration and immigration are being dealt with on anad hoc basis so it is time we faced up to the matter and gave some clarity to those who wish to come to this country. The Bill deals with those both lawfully and unlawfully resident in the country. A person is lawfully resident if he or she has a visa and has been issued with an entry permit for a specified duration. The problem is that people can become unlawfully resident in the State if they overstay their permitted time or if they attempt to enter the State unlawfully. The Bill allows for certain official ports or points of entry which will be determined by the Minister. This matter can be further debated on Committee Stage. The naming of specific ports and points of entry is to be welcomed. Those without the necessary entry permits can present themselves at such entry points and it will be illegal to enter the country by any other means.

We are a small island nation and most travellers enter from another European country such as the UK and France. People come to this country having been in another European country. I welcome clarification of the issue of lawful points of entry. I note that a person can be deemed to be in the country unlawfully if the work permit issued to his or her employer has expired.

This Bill is an important step in developing a fair, open and transparent system for everybody. However, much in this Bill has been left to the discretion of the relevant Minister. A total of 116 regulations and 151 orders require to be made by the Minister and this accounts for a certain amount of vagueness. I expect this will be further debated on Committee Stage.

I refer to family reunification which is a key subject but which is not resolved in this Bill. At the moment non-European Union citizens cannot bring family members to reside in Ireland. This causes great hardship. I have many cases where people have applied for residency but they are not permitted to bring their family members, such as young children or a spouse. I refer to a couple from Georgia whose seven year old son is living with his grandparents in Georgia for the past five years. This is a very difficult situation for that couple. They are hoping their residency permits will be accepted but in the meantime they are not permitted to have their son here with them. I do not think anybody is comfortable with such a situation which has been continuing for five years. The spouse of a person from outside the European Union is not permitted to work and this can cause economic strain on a couple. I am speaking about cases with which I am familiar as representations have been made to me. I ask the Minister to address the difficulties associated with direct family member reunification, such as a spouse or minor children. Family members from outside the EU should be permitted to visit their families for a holiday or to help during times of illness or when a baby is born. Grandparents should be permitted to visit without lengthy and excessive conditions. Such people have on occasion been refused a visitor's visa. I hope the Bill will clarify the situation for people in this situation.

I refer to the limitation on the right to marry. There has been much media comment on the requirement for priests not alone to carry out the ceremony but also to check papers to ensure everything is in order. While I do not know whether it will come to that, it will be interesting to tease it out on Committee Stage because the civil ceremony is different from the church ceremony.

This area can be problematic for Irish citizens who want to marry people from outside the European economic area. They may have difficulties in obtaining the necessary permit given that they must apply to the Minister three months before the proposed ceremony. A number of these issues have been raised. While I was not in the Chamber for the start of the debate last week, I read the Minister's speech and I know he is willing to discuss the details. I am looking forward to Committee Stage where many of the issues raised here can be teased out to bring more clarity for people.

On the whole, the Bill represents an important step forward. I acknowledge the work of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, the Irish Refugee Council and others in supporting immigrants. They have evolved over the years. Many people give their services and help immigrants in a voluntary capacity, particularly in the legal profession — they do so outside office hours. I am aware of two groups working in this important area in the Cork region. The Bill will allow us to move forward so that people can approach the country for asylum, for holiday or to seek residency. I hope it will bring some clarity and resolution to what heretofore has been anad hoc and haphazard system.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on one of the most important Bills to come before the House for some time, perhaps one of the most important Bills we will deal with in this Dáil term. I compliment the Minister, the Minister of State and their officials who have worked long and hard on producing the proposal in legislative form.

Ireland has seen two sides of this issue. In the 19th and 20th centuries we experienced much forced emigration with all its social consequences. In the past ten or 15 years we have seen the complete opposite with immigration into the country. We are in a unique position to know both sides of the one coin. In the 1950s, 1960s and indeed in the dark days of the mid-1980s when tens of thousands of people left the country it would have been unthinkable that a few short years later the House would be discussing such comprehensive legislation to deal with immigration as distinct from emigration. It is a sign of the changing Ireland.

Practically one in ten people living here is classed as a non-Irish national, either from European countries or from farther afield outside the EEA. That is a startling statistic especially given that it has come from a base of close to 0% ten or 15 years ago. We have been playing catch-up and our policy in the area has been totally response-led, reacting to the influx in recent years. It is therefore important to have a full and complete debate at this stage.

Before discussing the details of the Bill it is vital to recognise and state clearly that the vast majority of people who have come here legally at our invitation or who have stayed here after going through our due process are very welcome. It is important to say this in the House to the representative organisations and the people they represent. They are welcome here once they are here legally. In some cases they have made an enormous contribution to the country culturally, educationally and, for the most part, economically. They have also made a great contribution to our social services, with many such people working in our health care sector. It is now important to take the next step and adopt a much more joined up view as to where we are as a country and as to whom we want in this country. It is important to say this honestly because we have the power and responsibility to dictate as a country, subject to our international obligations, who should and should not be in the country. That is an important point to recognise before beginning the debate.

There are some important realities we need to face up to before we discuss the legislation. The current system has been abused, in some cases systematically, not just by the applicants, the non-Irish nationals, but also by people bringing cases on their behalf. Some people representing non-Irish nationals applying for asylum and residency are using the system as a money-making exercise. The Bill needs to tackle that issue and I believe it lays out the framework to do so. It is important to realise that 90% of applications for either residency or asylum have no merit and are unfounded. We need to face up to that reality and have a system to deal with those cases which have no merit or are vexatious. We need to deal with them quickly and expeditiously subject to the concepts of fairness and due process. The existing system, which has merely responded to the phenomenon of the influx in recent years, is a recipe for abuse.

There is a significant difference regarding the approach that ought to be taken to deal with the issue of how to legislate and introduce systems to address it, mainly between the Government and the Labour Party. Last week Deputy Rabbitte articulated in great detail his party's approach. As I understand it, he believes the legislation should incorporate statements of policy as to how we organise our systems and decide cases, whereas the Bill sets out to delegate authority and power in this area to the Minister. Leaving aside the legal debate as to whether it is constitutionally permissible to delegate those powers to the Minister — although it is an important point — there is also the issue of whether it is the way to proceed in this area. It begs the question as to whether policy in every aspect of government needs to be enshrined in legislation. I believe emphatically that is not the case.

I fundamentally disagree with the concept that in order for a government to operate a policy in any area of government endeavour, such policy needs to be enshrined in legislation. However, that is the position of the Labour Party as articulated in great detail by Deputy Rabbitte. I simply disagree because it suggests that every action of Government in making policy, including economic policy and foreign policy, needs to have a legislative base in that the policy itself is in the legislation. That is a recipe for disaster. Last week, Deputy Rabbitte quoted a long list of legal cases concerning the legal requirement to have such policy enshrined in legislation. I respectfully suggest, however, that he has confused two important issues. One is the requirement, with which I agree, to have some element of guiding principles in the legislation. However, that issue is confused with the suggestion that the legislation must have policy statements set out in it. I disagree with that because the logical conclusion of that position is that every time the Government seeks to change policy, a new immigration Bill must be introduced. That is a flawed concept, yet it is the logical conclusion of the argument put forward last week by Deputy Rabbitte. It is an unworkable way of managing our affairs, which is far too rigid and inflexible. However, this is an evolving area, not just here but also in other countries, and as economic and social conditions change, policy must change to reflect that. That is why we are introducing this legislation.

Deputy Rabbitte made the case that the Bill is devoid of guiding principles but I respectfully disagree with him on that point. Although the Bill delegates substantial powers to the Minister to make regulations and introduce an administrative framework, it can only be done in accordance with section 127(5), which makes it clear that in specifying categories of permission under the Bill, the Minister shall have regard to certain guiding principles. These include "trade, commercial, tourist, cultural, educational or scientific" contributions an applicant can make, in addition to the "facilitation of the provision of skills and expertise in the industrial, commercial, business, educational, scientific, cultural or administrative fields". Section 127(5) also refers to "the pursuit by the State of the maximum social, cultural and economic benefits" arising from immigration, as well as the "enrichment and strengthening of the cultural and social fabric of the State", and the "promotion of the successful integration of long-term residents into the State". As regards the latter point, we have taken an advanced view with the appointment of a separate Minister with responsibility for integration. Section 127(5) also refers to the "maintenance and protection of ... health", the "promotion of international understanding" and respect for our international obligations, the "fostering and development" of links between nations, specifically Ireland and Britain, the "protection of the socio-economic fabric of the State", and the "protection of the security of the State". If the aforementioned matters are not guiding principles or even a policy framework, I do not know what is. Consequently, I must respectfully say that Deputy Rabbitte's position is simply incorrect. First, it is clear that the Government has the necessary power. Second, the Government should delegate that power to the Minister. Third, the legislation does have guiding principles to inform the Minister as to how he should exercise that power. In this respect therefore I cannot agree with the long proposition made by Deputy Rabbitte in the House last week.

Immigration policy both here and abroad is evolving all the time. Proof of this fact can be seen in the seismic changes in our demographics over the past ten years. The suggestion is that we should amend our legislation every time such changes occur but that is an unsound principle.

The Bill has been welcomed because it attempts to codify the law in this area. It has been criticised, however, for restricting access to justice by applicants, be they asylum seekers or others applying for long-term residency or protection. It is said that in some shape or form the Bill does not protect such people but I would have to disagree with that view. The existing system grants too many protections. We must respect our obligations under international obligations, including UN and European conventions on human rights. Our processes go much further than that, however, and they allow our system to be abused. The net result is that 90% of such cases are unfounded and have no merit. There is something inherently wrong with a system that allows that failure rate to be indulged in by the State, the Department, the courts and administrative tribunals. It can often take years to decide that a case has no merit, and that is wrong. For that reason I welcome the simple concept that underpins the legislation — that is, that people are either legally resident in the State or not. If they are not here with the permission of the State they are legally obliged to leave and that removal process should be streamlined. I firmly believe in that and the Minister is absolutely right in the manner in which he has addressed the issue. Non-nationals who are legally resident here operate under a simple, streamlined and one-form application process whereby they apply for permission to be in the State. Such applications are processed and permission is either granted or not. If applicants do not agree with the way in which the process has been carried out and feel they have not received due process or fair procedure, they still have right of access to the courts in each and every case. That is a fair and efficient way of dealing with the system and I compliment the Minister on the manner in which he has introduced it.

Many groups have made representations concerning this Bill and they should be heard. As Chairman of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, I feel it is important that, before we discuss the detail of the legislation on Committee Stage, such groups should be invited to attend the committee and afforded an opportunity to express their views, which can then be heard and taken on board. The Minister has signalled that he is open to reasonable amendments to the Bill and I welcome his position in that regard.

I compliment the Refugee Council of Ireland, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and other advocate groups in this area. They provide a good service for applicants.

While many issues are dealt with in the legislation, I want to concentrate on whether we have got the overall mix right. Policy in this legislative context must — to use a much abused phrase — be joined up with other policies in order to deal with issues such as family reunification, children's rights, human trafficking and sexual exploitation. In that way it will not just be about who gets in or who does not, but will also deal with supports for people who are here at the invitation of the State. That overriding principle of responsibility must be outlined. Every state has that unique power to decide who is allowed enter its jurisdiction. That should not be confused with any extreme xenophobic views. It is a straightforward principle that we should state clearly and act upon reasonably in the interests of the State, while also recognising our international obligations in terms of human rights. In accordance with this overarching principle, this important legislation sets out a modern and efficient method for dealing with the issues that have arisen in the State in the past ten or 15 years. I look forward to Committee Stage and to engaging with the representative bodies to tease out some of the more detailed aspects of the proposals. I commend the Bill to the House.

I begin by responding to some remarks of Deputy Peter Power which he attributed to my Labour Party colleague, Deputy Rabbitte. I have had an opportunity to discuss with Deputy Rabbitte his approach to this Bill. He used the judgments of the Supreme Court to remind this Chamber that the basic difference between the Government and the Labour Party on these issues relates to the question of whether legislation should set out national policy. In putting forth my party's view, Deputy Rabbitte quoted in detail the views of the Supreme Court, which held that the Dáil could not simply hand over to the Executive constitutional responsibilities to make law no matter how much the latter wished to assume that power. Deputy Power clearly wishes to grant that power to the Executive.

Under the Constitution, this House has responsibility for making law and the Executive has responsibility for implementing it. The Government undoubtedly has great power to influence the making of law, but it is the responsibility of this House to make it. In the judgment in the Laurentiu case in 1999, Mr. Justice Keane stated: "It cannot be too strongly emphasised that no issue arises in this case as to whether the sovereign power of the State to deport aliens is executive or legislative in its nature." This is exactly Deputy Power's point. Mr. Justice Keane goes on to state:

It is clearly a power of an executive nature since it can be exercised by the Executive even in the absence of legislation. But that is not to say that its exercise cannot be controlled by legislation and today is invariably so controlled: any other view would be inconsistent with the exclusive law-making power vested in the Oireachtas. The Oireachtas may properly decide as a matter of policy to impose specific restrictions on the manner in which the executive power in question is to be exercised: what they cannot do, in my judgment, is to assign their policy-making role to a specified body or person, such as a Minister.

I am not a lawyer, unlike Deputy Power. However, Mr. Justice Keane's statement represents the nub of the issue and it is a powerful argument. I understand Mrs. Justice Denham was also a party to that judgment. It is applicable to most democratic legislatures worldwide where it is the responsibility of the parliament to make the law. That is the point made by Deputy Rabbitte. Deputy Power ascribed something to Deputy Rabbitte that he did not say. This principle is what the Labour Party stands by in the sense of standing by the Republic. Deputy Power might accept that. The explanatory memorandum quotes extensively from various Supreme Court judgments.

Some of the proposals in this Bill are extraordinary. There are communities in this State besieged by crime, criminal gangs and anti-social behaviour. On many occasions, it seems impossible to have gardaí assigned to these areas to address such criminal activity. It is ironic, therefore, that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform proposes in this Bill that the officiating priest or minister, or even the guests, at the wedding of an Irish person to a non-EU national could be locked up for flouting immigration laws. This is not a serious legislative initiative. Rather, it is a reactionary proposal that panders to those who seek a quick-fix solution regardless of whether it has been properly thought through.

As Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, Deputy Peter Power presumably has some insight into the Minister's thinking. Will the Government reconsider this proposal? In working-class housing estates in parts of my constituency and that of Deputy Power, there are insufficient Garda resources to attend to serious crime. Under this Bill, gardaí will be asked to chase guests and priests at weddings. The Government should cop itself on. Most people will be outraged at this proposal and it must be reviewed.

Marrying an Irish national does not confer additional rights that would not have been otherwise gained through coming here to work as a single individual of non-EU nationality. In effect, this proposal assumes that a person from outside the EU and the European economic area, EEA, would marry an Irish national only for a passport. If this is the view of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, he must explain the rationale for this assumption. Is there evidence that this is taking place and, if so, how often? There are legislative measures to deal with what the Minister is implying in this Bill are bogus marriages. If this is a significant problem, the Minister ought to address it honestly rather than adopting a sledge-hammer approach in this Bill.

We must take account of the lifestyles of many young people. It has become the norm, particularly for students, many of whom are from better-off families, to take a gap year to travel the world. They spend time in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other countries in which young Irish people are permitted to live, work and possibly remain. It is inevitable that some of these young people will meet and fall in love while residing in these countries. They may not necessarily want to marry these partners but they often want to bring them home to Ireland for a period of time so they can meet their family and friends. Some such relationships lead to marriage and others may persist for many years without marriage being the outcome. However, it is virtually impossible for the foreign partner to gain access to the State unless he or she is able to come as a student or can secure employment here from abroad. We are talking about young Irish people who are going abroad and meeting foreign partners. Most of them are young, so they are not economically established. In many cases, their families are more than prepared to assist when they come back from a year's travel with a partner who is not from an EU member state. The Minister needs to think about this issue. He should take into account in this legislation the realities of life for many young Irish people. I am talking people about people of absolute integrity, rather than people who are trying to import foreigners into Ireland. When Irish people meet their partners while they are abroad, we should ensure that structured mechanisms, with clear terms and conditions, are in place to allow them to bring those partners into this country.

I empathise with Deputies who have mentioned during this debate that immigration matters now comprise up to 40% of their constituency caseloads. Such issues are raised all the time in my constituency of Dublin West, which has experienced massive immigration. When I was in South Africa some years ago visiting friends, the then Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, who is now the Minister for Health and Children, was in the country with an enormous roadshow, which was also brought to places like Newfoundland. The Minister was trying to encourage skilled workers to immigrate into Ireland because they were needed here. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have sent strong signals, through FÁS and other bodies, that people from other countries are needed here. It is important we look after people from places like the Indian sub-continent, South Africa and Newfoundland when they immigrate into Ireland. Many married couples — they may be nurses or doctors — have come to Ireland from India. There has been a great deal of immigration from places like India and South Africa on foot of the requests which were made some years ago by the Government. Many people have moved here to work in the health service. However, problems can arise when a woman comes here and subsequently has children here with her partner from her own country. Her parents might get a short-term visa to be present when their grandchild is being born, but that visa might not be sufficient if the child is weak or sickly, or is born with a disability.

I have had to petition the Minister in many sad and difficult cases to see whether grandparents from countries like India and Pakistan can stay in Ireland for a reasonably lengthy period of time — six months or a year — to help with the care of their grandchild who is ill. Several heartbreaking cases are being considered by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform at present. I expect the Department to be cautious and to look for validation of the evidence in each case. Nobody is asking for an open-door policy. Given that we asked these people to immigrate into Ireland to provide valuable skills in our health service, for example, we should show that we want them to stay here by looking favourably on applications for visitors' visas made by their parents — the grandparents of their children. Such visas are extremely difficult to obtain, however. I appreciate that the Minister is proposing to address some aspects of this issue in the legislation before the House. I suggested to the previous Minister, Michael McDowell, and privately to the current Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, that some kind of bond system be introduced, for example. If the parents of people who have moved to Ireland legitimately have genuine family reasons for staying here for a lengthy period of time, we should provide a system whereby that can happen. I ask the Minister to address this issue.

The Geneva Convention originally established that states have a duty to give shelter to those fleeing from a well-founded fear of persecution, for instance in a conflict situation. This is the legal rationale for the granting of political asylum under the Geneva Convention. We have a moral imperative to assist people who flee in fear of their lives to seek help and succour in another jurisdiction. I recognise that provisions have to be made to deal with manifestly unfounded applications for asylum. When, as Minister of State, I introduced the first Refugee Bill, I ensured that it included provisions to deal promptly and expeditiously with manifestly unfounded asylum applications. We need to avoid the tarring of all asylum seekers, including those who have legitimate cases, with the same brush of illegitimacy. It would be a travesty of justice and a dereliction of Ireland's duties under the Geneva Convention if it were assumed that all asylum seekers are "bogus" or "economic migrants". We need to strike a balance between managing migration flows and fulfilling our humanitarian duties under the Geneva Convention.

The concept of subsidiary protection has been developed by the European Union over recent years as a means of recognising that the asylum applications of refugees from areas of conflict need urgent attention. In theory, an application for subsidiary protection allows legitimate asylum seekers to bypass the often lengthy protection procedures under the Geneva Convention to get the help they need. The Government accepted the concept of subsidiary protection when it was required to do so under an EU directive and various Council decisions. While the introduction of subsidiary protection has been a good development on the part of the EU, I understand that nobody has been granted asylum through the subsidiary protection process since it was introduced. If the Minister is aware of cases which are currently being addressed within this mechanism, I would be interested to hear about it. When I was doing my research, I did not come across any declared cases in which subsidiary protection has been granted. In light of the ongoing conflict in Darfur, for example, is the Government committed to the concept of subsidiary protection in the first instance? Is it merely engaging in some humanitarian window-dressing? It will be shameful if the Government does not sign up to what the EU has agreed as a means of addressing certain problems within the modern world and the global economy. I am aware that provision for subsidiary protection is being made in this Bill. In light of the position the Government has taken on it up to now, however, it is not clear whether subsidiary protection will be used in practice.

I welcome this legislation in so far as it might bring clarity to our immigration system and lead to the applications of legitimate asylum seekers being processed as a matter of urgency. I travelled extensively around the world — I lived in Africa for some time — before I got involved in politics. I have difficulty with people who believe that the concept of asylum is bogus. I spent a great deal of time in post-conflict countries like Rwanda and Uganda. I met people in Africa who had been the victims of torture. I have met them in Ireland too. The Government has chosen to identify with people who are economic migrants. I acknowledge that there is a difficulty there. It should not dismiss all asylum seekers simply as economic migrants. There are many conflicts in the world. Some people who were treated horrendously during those conflicts have ended up in this country. They need the protection of the Geneva Convention. The Government should use the provision in the Geneva Convention for programme refugees. People who are wasting away in refugee camps throughout the world should be offered a place of safety in Ireland. That was done in the case of Bosnian refugees following the conflict in Yugoslavia and even earlier in the case of Vietnamese boat people. That is a useful way of seriously expressing Ireland's concern about genuine asylum seekers.

I support the development of biometric confirmation of identity. Although it is a tricky, evolving technical area, I support it in principle. The proposal to charge lawyers who takepro bono cases on behalf of asylum seekers on genuine points of law is foolish because existing court rules provide that lawyers taking frivolous or wasteful cases can be dealt with through them. The Minister should withdraw that provision. Many legal cases would not be appealed if the initial procedures were properly followed or if people were able to avail of proper advice. I hope the Minister will address the issue. If he does, I am confident he would avoid most of the appeal cases.

As a member of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, I am delighted to contribute to the debate. We are always concerned when the Executive has too much say in making regulations but while section 127 provides the Minister with extensive powers to make regulations, he or she must have regard to 11 detailed qualifying conditions, including a foreign national's contribution to trade and tourism activities; the facilitation of the provision of skills, which has been very important over the past ten years; the pursuit by the State of the maximum social, cultural and economic benefits of immigration; the enrichment and strengthening of the cultural and social fabric of the State; successful integration, to which all parties are committed — this is important in the context of the work being undertaken by the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Conor Lenihan; maintenance of the health and safety of Irish citizens; the promotion of international understanding; the fostering of links between the State and the United Kingdom, which is important in the context of the open door travel policy between both states; the protection of the socio-economic fabric of the State; the protection of the security of the State; and the attainment or implementation of the Government's economic policy. There is a strong check on what the Minister may do.

Immigration has resulted in significant changes. I was glad to see children from my own constituency in the Visitors Gallery earlier and they reflect and represent the new faces of young Ireland, which is very welcome. I hope I will not be accused of plagiarism but a famous politician once described an essential qualification in a politician as "the ability to foretell what is happening now, next week, next month, next year and the ability to explain why it didn't happen after all".

Ireland is at a crossroads in its history. I was born in 1977 and I recall parties on the street in the mid-1980s to say goodbye to people emigrating to the United States illegally. Many of them remain in the US. Immigration was non-existent at the time. Why would people travel to a country with such a weak economy? When I attended college in the early 1990s, the occasional foreign student was a celebrity on campus. Towards the end of the 1990s and throughout this decade, we have experienced mass immigration as opposed to the mass emigration prior to that. However, it has happened relatively suddenly.

The Minister is trying to plan as best he can. In the 1980s and early 1990s, it would have been impossible to foretell the rate of immigration we would experience. It is, therefore, a good time to focus on the development of immigration policy to meet the economic and social challenges faced by the State. I welcome the Bill, which will replace much existing legislation dating back to the 1930s and the Aliens Act. Using the word "alien" to describe someone who is not a citizen of the State demonstrates how ancient is the legislation. The word "alien" is better suited to the age of "ET". Immigrants should be welcomed provided they can integrate and contribute to the social and family life and economic development of the country.

Immigration legislation was also introduced in 1999, 2003 and 2004, but these Acts were designed as stopgaps and not to address the long-term management of migration into the State. However, the Bill will do so and, for that reason alone, it should be welcomed. Members may disagree about various sections but there is general agreement the Bill is welcome and a good, open and frank discussion is needed about its contents. As a member of the justice committee, I look forward to a lengthy Committee Stage. I hope to meet representatives of immigrants' groups who advocate for immigrants in a valuable way before Committee Stage, as Deputy Peter Power outlined.

The legislation, when enacted, will consolidate and comprehensively codify immigration law and it will enable the Government to address non-EU migration. The Union is a vast supranational state and its citizens can travel freely to Ireland. They will not be affected by this legislation. We will continue to welcome Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians and so on who will reside in the State as fellow citizens of the Union. The Bill lays down a number of important principles governing the presence in the State of foreign non-EU nationals, including an obligation to leave if they are not lawfully entitled to be here. It is important to bear in mind Ireland is a welcoming society and immigrants are needed, but the Oireachtas is entitled to legislate for how immigration is managed. The Bill sets out various processes for applying for a visa, entering the State, taking up residence in the State and leaving the State.

I agree with other Members that immigration issues comprise a significant part of our constituency workload. Deputy Burton referred to meeting Irish citizens abroad who have problems and, for example, I have similar issues to deal with at my clinic tomorrow. Hopefully, when the Bill is enacted, many of these issues will be addressed. The removal of an illegal immigrant from the Sate involves a long process currently, which facilitates evasion of our law. There is time and incentive for people here illegally or who have an uncertain status to avoid the process, which is not satisfactory for them or the rest of society. As well as regulating who can enter the State, rights are being provided to people who would like to make an important contribution to their communities and local economies. I recently attended a presentation by Boyne Rovers on its future plans for the club and a recent immigrant to the State was at the top table. Both himself and his family have had a major input into the running of the club, which is welcome. There are many instances of successful integration into communities. Immigrants are generally quite religious and the co-operation of churches is also to be welcomed.

I discussed the issue of bogus marriages with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who is of the view that it is a significant problem across Europe. I expect he will outline the details of the issue on Committee Stage. The provision on marriage to non-EU nationals is controversial but I think it is perfectly reasonable to require that the Minister be notified. He said he would revisit the matter in light of the understandable concerns expressed about penalties for those who officiate at weddings. He will invite useful contributions on the matter on Committee Stage.

A number of contributions have been made to this debate by outside bodies. The Irish Refugee Council sent me a short but constructive document which welcomes much of the Bill but expresses unhappiness with certain aspects. The IRC may disagree with the Government on a policy basis but its input is useful. This Bill meets the commitments made in the programme for Government in regard to immigration and asylum. Statutory provisions will ensure transparent processes at each phase of the immigration cycle. I am particularly happy that provision is being made for family reunification. These provisions are generally welcomed by the IRC, although it has some concerns about them. As Deputies, we regularly meet lawful residents and citizens who face difficulties in bringing over a sick mother or father. I am only a new Deputy but I generally encounter sympathy when dealing with Department officials. However, it is important that statutory protection and a fair process are in place to allow family members reunite. This legislation takes a firm but fair approach to these matters.

Provision is made for a two year renewable visa for people with special skills. That is welcome because we lacked a green card system similar to that of the United States. It is important that the right people work in the country and, where a need arises for workers with particular skills, measures are needed to allow them to come.

Previous legislation on immigration can be described asad hoc but we were dealing with a situation that was new to us. Immigration rates, particularly among asylum seekers, exploded in the early part of this decade. The number of asylum seekers has since decreased although they are still coming. It is important, therefore, that we pass this Bill to create a statutory footing for immigration. Our economy is stronger today than ever before. More people are working and incomes are higher. People can get on planes and fly away for holidays and we have a fantastic social welfare system. Immigrant workers have contributed a huge amount. We have seen some abuses but these have to be rooted out. Most employers would not tolerate any abuse of immigrant workers. We need to manage the people who come into the country and ensure the system is well regulated. I look forward to discussing this Bill in more detail on Committee Stage.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008. We have been waiting a long time for the Bill.

To understand how immigration affects many people of diverse nationalities, it would be useful to consider the experience of the Irish diaspora. Every Member of this House has been affected by emigration. Since the famine, Irish people have emigrated to the UK, Australia, the United States and further afield to Argentina. They have made those countries wealthy in cultural and spiritual as well as economic terms.

I grew up in a family which had a newsagent background. We did not have a bad standard of living but my father worked in the UK for most of his life. Until the 1980s, it was normal for members of the family to work in the UK and elsewhere. Without that financial support, the business would not have prospered. I pay tribute to the assistance given by our close neighbour to the people who emigrated in the 1940s and 1950s. We have experienced conflict with the UK over the years but that country gave direction and a sense of fairness to Irish people working there. Most of the people who emigrated to the UK felt they were given a chance and treated with respect and dignity. If they were prepared to work, they were never asked their background in Irish society. We should also recognise the contributions made by Australia and the United States.

Many emigrants and descendants of the Irish diaspora are now returning to help build this country. Since the foundation of the State, it was difficult for us to prosper because the best and brightest left by boat or plane. Since people started to return with their experiences and outlooks on life the country has become better off.

A lot more could be done by this Government in terms of funding Irish centres in the UK and the elderly Irish who, while not forgotten, suffered the slings and arrows of life's misfortunes and have fallen through the safety net. We could do a little more for these people and for the centres that provide them with assistance. I have visited the various Roscommon associations in Birmingham, Manchester and London, which remain reliant on the Labour Government in the UK for funding. However, they have been informed that Ireland is now economically well off and that they should seek assistance from the authorities here.

I travelled to Australia in 1984 and on the way I passed through Turkey and met a number of would-be asylum seekers from Iran and Iraq who did not want to be involved in the horrific war started by Saddam Hussein. These were normal people who had fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, who did not want to fight in the war and who were obliged to live in a no-man's-land in Turkey. They relied on contributions from the Turkish people and could not gain entry to Europe. However, a few years later they may have been successful in respect of achieving the latter. Were it not for the grace of God, we might have found ourselves in a situation similar to theirs. On many occasions when members of the Irish diaspora left this country, they did not do so out of choice. However, people can now leave Ireland out of choice and can, for example, take a flight to the United States or wherever.

Deputy Thomas Byrne highlighted difficulties involved in using the terms "aliens" and "illegal aliens". The term "asylum seekers" is also problematic. However, the new term "protection applicants" is much more sensitive in nature and I congratulate those responsible for suggesting that it be used.

Many of the people who travel to Ireland often have no choice but to do so — they do not come voluntarily. We have extended the hand of friendship to them and one hopes that, like many Irish emigrants who returned here after working abroad, they can go back to their home countries and help build them up by using the knowledge they gained and the money they obtained here. Many of the countries from which these people come are in a state of conflict and they come here to find a safe refuge.

In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people entering the country. Perhaps we were not ready for this eventuality. If Ireland had not been a country from which huge numbers of people emigrated in the past, our tolerance in respect of those coming here might not have been as good.

At one stage, there was no physiotherapist in the town in which I live because it was not possible to encourage anyone to come there to work. Thankfully, however, we managed to find two Indian physiotherapists who were willing to work in the town. As a politician, I am glad of that because I am no longer obliged to deal with the difficulties that arise. Elderly people in my town are now receiving the physiotherapy to which they should have had access in the first instance. The care and attention provided by the physiotherapists to whom I refer has been fantastic.

I am concerned because many of the places in which these asylum seekers — I do not like to use that term — live seem to be incentive-driven establishments. As far as I am aware, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has responsibility in this area. Individuals have bought old hotels in many of our towns and have herded asylum seekers into them. In many instances, financial gain seems to be the driving motivation for the operators of these establishments.

On Monday last, the residents of a temporary hotel located adjacent to my office in Ballinamore invited me to visit the premises. These people are extremely concerned about the legislation and they wanted to highlight to local Deputies the circumstances in which they live. My secretary visited the premises on my behalf and from what she said, those premises are not up to standard. For example, there was a lack of washing machines. Some of the people she met are extremely talented chemists, biologists and teachers and they are still waiting for their visas to be approved. As matters stand, they cannot work. It is soul destroying to witness the circumstances in which these people are obliged to live.

I am satisfied that the Health Service Executive is monitoring the premises to which I refer. On the day after my secretary's visit, three washing machines appeared and pipes that should have been fixed previously were finally repaired. Perhaps the people who operate premises of this type are of the view that the Government is just throwing money at this problem and are trying to reap the benefits. I accept that people must make some financial gain but a balance must be struck. Those with responsibility for this matter should ensure that the people to whom I refer are not treated as second-class citizens. They are human beings and we should treat them with the highest respect.

In recent days I met a terminally ill young man whose parents are in their 80s and 90s. He is cared for by a lady from China. The care and attention she provides is incredible. However, everyone involved is concerned that she will be deported. I accept that the law must be adhered to but the Minister should examine cases on an individual basis. If applications are received from people such as the man to whom I refer who require care and attention and who cannot access it in any other way, there should be some amnesty. I forwarded the details relating to this case to the Minister. One hates to see people caught up in such harrowing situations.

I wish to refer to organised crime. We already have enough criminals in this country. An extremely small percentage of the people who have come to Ireland are responsible for organised crime. My business was recently targeted in the middle of the day by four women and a man who took whatever they pleased from the premises. My staff have always been told to treat people with respect, which is what they did, but on this occasion the Ireland of the welcomes was taken for granted. When the people to whom I refer were eventually caught in Wexford, it emerged that in the order of 43 cases were pending against them. When gardaí visited the house in which they were living at the time, these people were able to raise a bond of €12,000. A total of 38 gardaí from stations throughout the country were involved in pursuing these people. God only knows the number of man hours they spent investigating them and the trail of destruction they left in their wake. I presume these individuals remain in the country. I am not concerned with what they took from me, but legislation must be introduced to ensure that people such as those do not get away with the crimes they commit.

I wish to praise the Garda. In recent times, trouble arose among some of the immigrants living in the area I represent. The Garda organised a football match between various groups and got to know these people. It is amazing what bringing people into normal society can do, and that trouble has certainly stopped. I praise and thank the Garda for the work done in liaising with these people.

I pay tribute to the Immigrant Council of Ireland, which has certainly championed the rights of immigrants. The issue of family reunification is dealt with in my office and elsewhere, and it is harrowing for families wishing to be reunified. For one reason or another, some families cannot achieve this aim. We have been in this position ourselves and there are still undocumented Irish in the United States. We cannot always speak from two sides of our mouth. We cannot just lobby for the undocumented Irish.

Not enough is being done for them and I appeal to the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, to treat the issue much more seriously. We have up to 50,000 such undocumented Irish in the United States and I know of one or two who cannot come back for various functions. We also have to treat our own visitors in Ireland with the respect they deserve.

Immigration is a key factor in the Irish economy and it will continue to be an important feature for the foreseeable future. The contribution made by immigrants to the economy and Ireland in general through culture, arts and economic activity is significant. More than 100,000 people from outside the EU area have been admitted to the State for employment. The health service and most other services around the country would collapse if these people were not here.

I note the number of applications has been decreasing since 2005 and the proportion of work permit refusals has also decreased since then. The Bill would provide a new system of managing and tracking persons entering the country, from visitors to other holidaymakers.

The issue of bogus marriages must be addressed, although it should not get in the way of the right to marry. Section 123(2) of the Bill provides:

A marriage purportedly contracted in the State between two persons one or each of whom is a foreign national is invalid in law

unless the foreign national or, as the case may be, each of them—

(a) has, not later than 3 months before the date of solemnisation of the marriage, given notification in the prescribed form to the Minister of the intention to marry,

Even more problematic will be that both parties will have to be the holder of an entry permission issued for the purpose of the intended marriage or a residence permission other than a protection application entry permission or a non-renewable residence permission.

In other words, asylum seekers and people on a non-renewable residence permit will not be permitted to marry in the State, even where they intend to marry an Irish or EU citizen. It is a difficult position and I ask the Minister to explore the matter further. The three-month notice to be given is somewhat draconian but it is acceptable.

A total of 5,630 people appear to have evaded orders of deportation and we do not know how many are still resident in the country. The Department does not seem to know this either. Anytime one looks to contact the Department it is like getting through to the CIA. It seems to be open only two or three days a week.

As national politicians we are supposed to have a hotline but it is embarrassing going back to people telling them we have tried to contact the Department today and yesterday. They probably think we are doing nothing about their concern when we are. I accept the Department has been swamped by various applications but as politicians, we like to get back to constituents who come into us.

The key difficulty in Irish immigration law is that it will not be resolved totally by this Bill. I accept it makes inroads in dealing with a very difficult area.

There are some very positive aspects in the Bill. The term "protection applicant" is much more user-friendly than "asylum seeker" or, God forbid, what they use in the United States, "illegal alien".

I welcome the introduction of this Bill and the opportunity to discuss it. It is regrettable it has taken so long to find a consensus at one level and deal with the intricacies that had to be dealt with in this particular legislation. The delay was partly down to this issue of inward migration not concerning Ireland until relatively recently. I hope this Bill will take into account many of the lessons we have learned and problems identified resulting from difficulties and issues in dealing with immigration. It seems to do so.

There is little doubt that the Bill's taking so long has meant people have suffered. The country has suffered at one level and some of the people who have sought to live here have been less than fairly or adequately treated, as one would expect in a modern society. It is important we look forward rather than back and learn from mistakes. We should try to ensure the legislation is teased through. I am looking forward to considering the legislation on Committee Stage to ensure that in so far as is possible with any legislation, the end document will provide a sound foundation on which to continue immigration policy.

At one level this country should be very well versed in the issue of immigration and migration. We have had a chequered history and tradition considering the economic migration we have seen in our own country right back to the Famine and before. There is a suggestion that many of those currently looking to live in the country are probably more economic migrants than asylum seekers, which the statistics bear out.

That should not surprise anybody in this country. As Deputy Feighan stated, his family and mine would have benefited from the capacity to migrate, not just to the UK but to the United States. My grandmother went to the United States in 1910 or 1911 and returned home after a period of time. Right through history this country has seen the real benefits of economic migration to other countries. As Deputy Feighan indicated, there is still an issue with the undocumented Irish.

Some of the Irish who went to England were treated dreadfully and some were treated well. Some flourished and some fell between the cracks. We should have a great knowledge base of such issues and we should not be surprised or hold back when dealing with people who want to come here.

As a modern society it is clear we will be judged not on how we embrace the strong but more on how we reach out to the weak. That is true for many ways in which the State interacts with its citizens and those of other countries in the world. As a society and nation we must learn from our own experiences and we have a strong knowledge pool in that regard. We have a strong basis on which to put forward policies that will address this issue. Irish immigration played a positive role in the United States, where in the region of 50 million Americans claim Irish heritage or ancestry. Irish people are to the fore in politics and some of the largest blue-chip companies in the United States. That is positive for us. The American public would argue that our work ethic has been positive for it. Both countries have benefited from the connection and we continue to benefit, being the most successful in Europe regarding attracting greenfield investment from the United States.

The undocumented Irish travelled to the United States in the mid to late 1980s and early 1990s. While that issue is separate from this debate, I wish to address it in the context of the Bill. As we approach St. Patrick's Day, when effectively the entire United States becomes Irish for a few days, we should keep these people to the fore. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs have done immense work to alleviate their plight. Many tied up in this debacle are from the west and had to leave. We now owe a considerable debt to them, to ensure that they can pass to a documented status that allows them to continue their lives. Our economy is stronger than when they left, affording them an opportunity to return. They may have intended travelling to the United States only for work but are now married and have families there. Their children are American citizens and they need closure to allow them to live as we would want and expect. It is particularly sad that people are unable to return to bury their parents or siblings, and to attend family weddings and other celebrations such as retirement parties. An effort is being made to help them.

There will be a change of president at the end of the year in the United States and maybe even a change of party in that office. I look forward to the outcome of the election to see whether efforts can be made to resolve this problem. Senator McCain co-sponsored a cross-party Bill with Senator Kennedy to bring about a satisfactory outcome for the undocumented Irish, which unfortunately did get through the Houses. It is a complex area but I hope it can be resolved at the earliest possible opportunity. As we have a duty to the people coming into our country, we also have a duty to protect those who had to leave.

It is important that we equip ourselves with short-term migrants. Many who come here have something to bring from their educational background or their ability to work. We are recovering from a difficult period and the damage caused by emigration, not least the toll it took on families and society. We have recovered economically but are only starting to recover from the great personal loss. Migration led to a brain drain. We are fortunate that with economic success people who were perhaps unskilled when they left have returned with new skills. That is part of the short-term migration some countries experience, which has a long-term benefit.

The 1980s seem to have been a turning point here from suffering the ravages of emigration to grappling with inward migration. That was due to the economic plans put in place in the late 1980s by a former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and former Minister for Finance, Ray MacSharry, and the Cabinet at that time. They consulted with the Opposition too resulting in the Tallaght strategy which was based on consensus that something had to be done. Thankfully, that worked and we are reaping its benefits.

We have no choice but to introduce this Bill because it is important to put in place the tools to manage migration and immigration. I am somewhat disappointed that it has taken so long but the fact that the Bill is based on detailed research and lengthy consultation with interested parties will hopefully ensure that the safeguards and quality of deliberation will stand the test of time.

The Bill fairly adequately addresses the necessity to balance the rights of the asylum seeker with responsibility to those living in the State. The process is slow because the State has to be sure that an applicant is in real danger of prosecution or worse if returned to his or her state and there is a duty to protect that person. Many, however, are found to be nothing more or less than economic migrants. One might say fair play to them for trying. They have nothing to lose and all to gain. Many Irish people travelled to the United States on the same basis; they could not apply for asylum but they were trying to find a better future for themselves and their families. The Bill addresses well the State's duty to its citizens and to others living here and the integrity of the European Union which must be central to any immigration policy.

The process is far too slow. The refugee application commission is an independent body and if the applicant is not satisfied with the outcome, he or she can appeal to another independent body. There is often also a slow court procedure. The Bill sets out to change the lengthy methodology by which each aspect of a case is considered serially.

My understanding is that the new Bill will put in place a system that will allow all aspects pertaining to those applicants who wish to remain in Ireland to be considered together in order that when a determination is made, ultimately all elements will have been addressed. Consequently, when the application goes to the first layer of appeal, the entirety of the application will be appealed, rather than being done on a piecemeal basis. This is the most critical element because previously, it is clear that processing elements of the appeal in series delayed the process and allowed difficult situations to arise on all levels.

This Bill also will establish for the first time a proper immigration process with the capacity to apply for visas. Just as importantly, it will move from the principle of permitting temporary migration on a year to year basis to the concept of long-term residency. Most countries have such a system. As economically well-positioned countries should have such a system, it is welcome.

While the five-year limit to apply for naturalisation has applied for some time, it should be managed somewhat better. It is quite slow for those who live here and contribute in a real way to the economy and this matter should be examined. One also must recognise the contribution of migrants. One must recognise that the skill base possessed by many of those concerned is of benefit to us. This can be linked to long-term residency, as do other countries that operate points-based systems and systems that identify skills shortages and the requirements of an economy. Members can look forward to such a system having an impact. Deputy Feighan suggested removing some of the mystery that exists with regard to the back office processing at present. The passage of this Bill will put in place a more structured and better foundation for delivery in order that people have clear expectations in respect of the outcome, as well as clear deliverables that will work to benefit everyone.

Migration has served the Irish people well and has done so on two levels. It served our society well when the economy was at an embryonic stage in respect of our capacity to emigrate to countries that could provide better futures, perhaps better levels of education and better acquisition of skills. Many of those concerned have returned and continue to return and migration has worked well from that perspective. Migration now has the capacity to serve us well by providing a labour pool when required. It is unfortunate that a couple of years ago, the State was issuing 45,000 to 50,000 work permits per year, which is not necessarily the best way to deal with it as a more structured approach is possible. While migration now serves the country well, it must be well managed and fair. It must be fair to the applicant and to those who are present in the State. The State has a duty to protect those who live here, a duty to provide a safe place to live for them and a duty to provide a sustainable economy for both those who have immigrated here and those who live here.

I wish to address some other issues in the context of this debate. While there is little doubt that a percentage of immigrants are criminals or are from a criminal fraternity, a percentage of the indigenous population also is criminal and is involved in criminal acts. One must be careful as to how this issue is managed and dealt with. The absence of a proper immigration system has allowed people to flag some of the negative aspects of the asylum seeking process and to try to use it to hide or mask an inherent racist tendency in certain quarters. This Bill will provide a more streamlined approach towards the processing of such applications. Hopefully it will weed out spurious cases more quickly and will remove the trafficking element in particular more quickly because Ireland no longer will be seen as a soft touch or a soft target. This will prevent certain groups in society, who clearly are racist in their thinking, from having a flag of convenience with which to proffer their views. For this reason, the Bill will be welcomed generally.

The Bill contains a provision in respect of the issue of marriage of foreign nationals or non-EU nationals that is not entirely clear. Perhaps the Minister of State will pass on to the Minister my desire to have a broader discussion of this issue. Undoubtedly a problem exists and it is important to address it for the benefit of all. Although a trafficking issue clearly exists, an issue also arises in that marriages are arranged in some cases. While this may no longer be a normal method of meeting someone in today's society, this practice took place in Ireland in the past. I know of several cases in County Clare in which people ultimately have found happiness by making contact, perhaps through the Internet or some other arranged process, with people in third countries. While this may not be conventional in today's dating or courting methodology, it has worked and brought happiness to them. Members should not rule out the practice completely on the basis of the concerns that have been expressed. The issue must be addressed more fully.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill. The one point on which everyone in this House can agree is the necessity for a comprehensive reform of Ireland's outdated and inadequate asylum and immigration legislation. An opportunity had presented itself at last to address the shortcomings and failures of the current system and to develop legislation that would lead to a progressive, fair, transparent and efficient system that would meet the standards of international best practice and comply with international human rights obligations.

I was disappointed but, sadly, not surprised to read what has been put before Members. It does not measure up to anything I have just outlined. It is a rehashing and reheating of the same regressive, inadequate and poorly written law that has been kicking around since the Government announced its intentions for this Bill several years ago. In all that time and with all of the so-called consultations and detailed submissions that were conscientiously presented and studiously ignored, sadly, the Government still has not accomplished its stated aim of setting out "in a clear and integrated approach the whole process for foreign nationals coming to the State, staying here and, when necessary, being required to leave". This Bill as presented offers no clarity, no integrated approach and certainly does nothing to address the problems in the current so-called process. It has the potential to make things worse and may place Ireland in breach of its obligations under international refugee and human rights law.

With this Bill, the Minister has chosen to follow the well-worn path of his predecessor in promoting a culture of disbelief, in which every asylum seeker is first of all suspected of being a fraud and a liar, intent on abusing the system and in which, despite the assurances of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to the contrary, the implication is that migrants are coming here to take advantage of the State and its benefits and to gain residency through fraudulent means. The Minister, like his predecessor, would have Members believe the world is full of people who are simply waiting for an opportunity to come to Ireland and are eager for us to relax our vigilance. The reality is far removed from that proposition.

The intent of the Bill, as has been clearly stated, is to tighten up the system. It does so, but at what cost? It risks the serious erosion of migrants' rights and fundamental principles of access to justice, while failing to address some of the most serious flaws in the system, such as unacceptable administrative backlogs, inconsistent decision-making and lack of clarity on the rights, entitlements and obligations of migrants in Ireland. It also fails to address some of the most serious issues in respect of immigration, such as family reunification and protection for victims of trafficking and separated children.

There are numerous flaws and areas of concern in this legislation and I will touch on some of them. Of general concern is the trend throughout the Bill of vesting in the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform overly broad discretionary power, giving discretionary powers to civil servants, gardaí and administrators with limited guidance, and relying on future so-called policy statements and-or promises made by the Minister to address the already well identified gaps in this legislation. We do not know what will happen in this regard, even if the Government, including the Minister, is of good intent. Sadly, there is little evidence to comfort me or anyone else who shares my concerns that that would be the case. To offer a fool's pardon, what will happen to those promises or commitments if the Government or the Minister changes?

The Bill fails to set out clear rules regarding the rights and obligations of migrants seeking to come to Ireland. Instead, it sets out procedural rules that the Minister will have the power to define further pursuant to section 127, leaving the detail to secondary legislation or administrative decisions. The Bill fails to give guidelines or clarity on the criteria or issues to be considered by immigration officers in making decisions on behalf of the Minister. It does not deal directly with the rights of students, their partners and-or children, the rights of researchers, the self-employed, non-economically active migrants or the undocumented. All of these, we are told, are to be covered by as yet unpublished and apparently still to be determined immigration regulations.

Many of the provisions in this Bill do not appear to be well thought out and the various scenarios or consequences do not appear to be considered properly. We are, therefore, being asked to vote on legislation that is clearly incomplete and unclear without knowing the full consequences or what rules will apply. This is a lot to ask.

The most serious of omissions is the whole subject of family reunification. Members spoke about family reunification in the Irish context, in terms of the Irish experience globally. Let us understand that this applies to others who have come to stay on our shores. The serious omission in this area, which impacts heavily on the human and constitutional rights of migrants and their family members, is, according to the European Commission, one of the most significant types of migration to the European Union and internationally. We in Ireland know this as well as any other nationality globally.

If this omission is not addressed, Ireland will be the only member of the European Union not to have primary legislation covering this issue. It had been promised that provisions for family reunification would be included in the Bill, but the only reference is to the right of refugees and those granted subsidiary protection to apply for family reunification. Even at that, the definition of "family" is very restrictive in that it does not allow minor refugees to apply for their siblings, it does not recognise unmarried partners or address the rights of reunified family members in the event of death or marriage breakdown. What happens then?

Although the previous Government decided to opt out of the EU directive on the right to family reunification, Ireland should be guided by international best practice and should respect the fundamental importance of family life to all of society. Those who come to live, work and pay taxes in Ireland deserve to have something as basic as normal family life. By not providing for family reunion, we are creating isolation and unnecessary suffering and setting up barriers to integration. This must be addressed in primary legislation.

This Bill does not provide adequate protections for victims of trafficking, despite a commitment by Government to address the needs of victims in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill. Most significantly, people who are trafficked in from the European Union will not benefit in any way as this Bill applies only to citizens from outside the European economic area. Large numbers of people trafficked come from within the EU, particularly eastern Europe.

The provisions in this Bill basically provide for a victim witness protection programme and barely meet the minimum standards of international law, as provided for under the Council of Europe Convention on Actions against Trafficking in Human Beings, which states explicitly that protection and assistance must not be conditional on co-operation. Trafficked persons who do not wish to testify as witnesses, who cannot provide useful information or who are not required as witnesses should be afforded the same protection and assistance as victim witnesses. Incredibly, the provision allowing for temporary residence to be revoked once "any investigation or prosecution arising in relation to the trafficking has been finalised or terminated" should be removed. What kind of incentive is there for a victim to provide evidence that could lead to a successful prosecution if he or she knows that the end result would be the termination of his or her own residency permission? Let us be real about this.

There is a need for specific provisions relating to the protection of trafficked children and specific entitlements for those who are granted temporary residency, including the provision of a renewable residency permit. There should also be a specific provision that victims of trafficking will be given due consideration in any application subsequently for asylum, immigration or residency. Once again, this section of the Bill falls far short of what is needed.

Absent from the Bill also are new provisions to improve protection for separated children, another vulnerable group that has been ignored. Both the Irish Refugee Council in its submissions and the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection pointed out shortcomings in the current system and made very concrete recommendations. Measures should be put in place to address the issues of age assessment and improve identification, registration, family tracing, guardianship, best interests determination, treatment and care to bring Ireland into line with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

While these are all important issues and must be dealt with in this Bill, there are other issues of grave concern that will have a serious impact on the administration of a just and fair system. These are issues that bring us dangerously close to breaches of the Constitution and of international human rights obligations, not to mention setting dangerous trends. While the Government complains about the costs associated with court actions, through these proposed measures it is potentially setting itself up for court challenges, with further costs and further delays.

Section 4(8), which introduces summary deportation, a significant new power, may be in breach of fair and just procedures, a right that is recognised under the Constitution, and may also be in violation of the right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Articles 6 and 13 of the same convention. This provision may result in vulnerable people who have become undocumented — make no mistake about it, this is happening — through no fault of their own and who have been unable to regularise their situation within the required time limit, being deported, even when their case involves special circumstances, for example, a victim of domestic violence who has been dependent on his or her spouse and whose partner holds possession of the family's documents or a migrant worker in an exploitative situation. We have been addressing these matters in this House only this week.

This may also result in migrants being unable to avail of voluntary return programmes, meaning that taxpayers will have to pay unnecessarily for people being removed forcibly from the State. Currently, the Bill provides no flexibility to deal with or provide for persons in exceptional circumstances and that is absolutely necessary.

With the emphasis on the effectiveness and efficiency of removals with the least expense, there is a total lack of provision for safeguards and appeal mechanisms. This is a totally unacceptable position to curtail the rights of individuals who may be in need of protection and to enforce their removal prior to the exhaustion of review or appeal mechanisms.

Equally disturbing is that increased powers of detention have been added. There is now provision in the Bill to detain persons at every stage of the so-called protection process. A person seeking protection could be detained from point of arrival to point of removal. This is a dangerous return to the practice of internment. Persons seeking protection — which is the right of everyone and not an illegal activity — should not be treated as criminals. There is no acceptable reason for someone to be imprisoned. UNHCR guidelines specifically restrict detention to exceptional circumstances and for minimal periods. This internment of protection applicants may be in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, ECHR, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Not surprisingly, the Bill does not contain any safeguards against arbitrary arrest, which may also be contrary to the ECHR, which provides that persons must be informed of the reason for their detention promptly and in a language they understand.

Another questionable violation of individuals' rights is the limitation of the right to marry. Requiring "foreign nationals" to have the permission of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to marry, even if one partner is an Irish or EU citizen, ignores existing international human rights obligations, which are applicable in Ireland regardless of domestic legislation. Additionally, asylum seekers or people on a non-renewable residence permit, which has not been clearly defined, will not be permitted to marry. This is once again using what I can only describe as a sledgehammer, or more like a jackhammer, to crack a nut. While there are known cases of so-called fraudulent marriages or marriages of convenience, this is a completely over-the-top response to what is a highly personal and individual decision in every person's life. There are and could be far more equitable and intelligent ways of determining the validity of any claim for the benefits of marriage.

While the Minister has the discretion to waive this requirement, that is problematic in itself. This discretionary power could infringe the equality clause in Article 40.1° of the Constitution. The Bill gives the Minister general discretion not to apply the requirement to whomever he chooses, but does not provide clear principles governing the exercise of this discretion. Does the Minister really want this? I am incredulous if he does. While the exercise of ministerial discretion is generally welcome in that it gives flexibility to the system, the broad powers being conferred in this Bill leave too much room for potential abuse — I would have thought the man was much too busy at any rate.

The proposed restrictions on access to justice provide another serious problem with this Bill. Failure to provide for an independent appeals mechanism for immigration decisions, which had been promised in the programme for Government — there are those promises again — denies migrants the opportunity to challenge decisions which will have a profound effect on their lives. If the Government is so concerned about the number of cases being taken to the High Court, and is proposing to restrict access to the courts for that reason, then the answer is to have a transparent, independent and accountable system of review. While a simplified and single application process is to be welcomed, it can only work if it is fair. Clearly, the current system is not fair. The fact that many applications have been denied at first instance, only to be granted on appeal, surely indicates there is something wrong with the way the system operates. We are all aware of the scandal around the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. How many more of the cases that were denied on appeal by a particular individual might have been granted if heard by someone else? A number of cases that have gone for judicial review have been settled out of court, a certain indication that at some level there is acknowledgement that the system is not working properly. The proposed legislation will serve only to retain the weaknesses and problems of the current system; the Protection Review Tribunal is simply the Refugee Appeals Tribunal under another name. This is not progress.

I want also to highlight the provisions relating to the principle ofnon-refoulement, the prohibition on returning asylum seekers to a country where they are likely to face persecution or torture. This is a cornerstone of international human rights law. It recognises that not everyone facing such a danger will meet the convention definition of a “refugee” and guarantees his or her protection nonetheless. It is incumbent on states that are parties to the convention, as we are, to ensure that no one who arrives here seeking protection is refouled. This obligation needs to be taken seriously. We must remember this is literally a matter of life or death for these people. It is not an area on which the State should be cutting corners, or honouring in the breach. Human lives are at stake and I cannot stress that enough. However, a number of this Bill’s provisions undermine our ability to live up to that responsibility.

Time is against me and I need to conclude. I appeal to the Minister, his Cabinet colleagues and those with junior ministerial responsibility to rethink their approach to the immigration and asylum issues. I use the word "issues" because they are two different procedures and should be treated differently. There is much to the argument that they should not even be covered in the same legislation. The procedures in the Bill for long-term residency appear not to distinguish between migrant workers and persons granted humanitarian leave or subsidiary protection. A more flexible approach should be taken with regard to the latter, in consideration of the circumstances that brought them here. Let us all be clear about the fact that they did not come by choice.

Immigration has brought much that is good to this country — that must be said repeatedly because there are many ears and minds that are closed to that fact — and it will continue to do so. Let us not forget our own experiences and hardships, to which I referred, in trying to seek a better life, and the massive numbers of Irish who were immigrants all over the world. Some were fleeing from conflict and some were fleeing from poverty and hunger or just seeking a better life. They were no different from any of those whose cases present on our shores each and every week. Therefore, the least we can do for them is to give to them what we have sought for our own, namely, a fair chance.

I welcome this opportunity to discuss this Bill and the general issue of immigration. I commend the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, on presenting this Bill to the House and recognise the work the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, with responsibility for integration has carried out with the immigrant community to date. I wish him well in the future, as this will be an important area. He has a important role to play in this regard.

Immigration was never an issue that affected Ireland. For generations Ireland was a nation of emigration and the only immigration we saw was minimal. Largely because of this we did not have the necessary laws or resources in place to deal with a sudden rise in numbers immigrating. When I left school in 1980s, it was a time of mass emigration and depression. The economy was poorly and depressed and people had no choice but to emigrate. I left school in 1981 and within five years of doing so some 80% of my classmates were overseas. Therefore, the Irish have gained considerable experience and know only too well the difficulties sometimes faced when living in another country. I point to the many difficulties faced by many Irish emigrants living in the US. Like my colleague, Deputy Dooley, who commented on this issue, I look forward to an incoming president in the US who may at last tackle this issue, which is difficult for many families here and in the US.

The level of immigration here from the mid-1990s came to us unexpectedly and it is only with the publication of this Bill that we are developing a co-ordinated approach to immigration, which examines immigration to Ireland in a long-term context. This Bill will also help us to meet the majority of commitments made on immigration in the programme for Government and will lay the groundwork to allow us to achieve the remainder of these commitments.

Despite the fact that immigration has caused some of the biggest social changes in Ireland over the past decade, we as a society have not had a proper debate on our attitudes to immigration and I hope the publication of this Bill might facilitate such a debate. Unfortunately in the past, anyone who opposed the orthodox view of immigration in the public sphere was shouted down, isolating those who do not support an open door immigration policy. This has had the effect of stifling debate on our views on immigration.

I hope that, with the publication of this Bill, Irish society will now be able to have a mature debate on immigration. I hope, too, that anyone who expresses unease in this debate about a lenient immigration policy will not run the risk of being accused of being against immigration. The isolation in the recent past of those who have expressed unease as regards the level of immigration has only served to increase hostility and to make the integration of immigrants a more difficult process.

It is only when we accept that Ireland must have some form of controls that we will be able to take a mature approach to immigration, which treats the needs of immigrants and the concerns of Irish society equally. In the most recent census, I notice that Rosbercon in New Ross, where I come from, had the highest percentage of foreign nationals in the country. More than 60% of the people who now live in Rosbercon are foreign nationals, which is an enormous increase for a small village area. However, we have adapted and coped quite well. It is wonderful to see the many different nationalities use the facilities we have in our town. As I drive through Rosbercon every day, I am reminded of the important role these people have played both in our society and in terms of the contribution they have made to our economic success.

However, I feel there is a very important role also for the Department of Education and Science. One of the most requested issues in my constituency office from immigrants is English classes. Many of these people are highly educated, often to degree level. In many cases they are working in relatively meaningless occupations in terms of their qualifications. They are prepared to do any type of work until they have a competent level of English and can communicate and perhaps take up a position in line with their qualifications.

One of the areas we must concentrate on as a Government is ensuring that the provision of English classes for these people is a priority for the future. The frustration they experience in trying to deal with day to day issues is compounded greatly by virtue of the fact that they do not have English. I am mindful that in certain instances, parents often bring their five or six year old child to the constituency office to translate because the child is at school and has some English. The parents use him or her as a translator to try to communicate the difficulties they encounter. This is one of the areas we need to be very mindful of and on which attention must be focused also. Obviously, integration into Irish society is very important, so the ability to communicate in English is vital.

When large-scale immigration into Ireland began in the 1990s, much of the related legislation was based on the Aliens Act 1935, which had been drafted in a different climate and did not reflect the realities we now face. The various immigration Acts adopted by the Oireachtas in 1999, 2003 and 2004 were very much stopgap measures intended to deal with the circumstances as they arose, both then and now. However, none of these Acts took a long-term view on immigration policy and did not chart how this country intended to deal with immigration over a long period of time. I believe the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008 is the first item of legislation placed before this House which outlines a long-term strategy for a response to immigration and which establishes standard practice for those who wish to migrate to Ireland.

This Bill has been drafted based on the experiences of this country over the past decade and follows a comprehensive consultation process which sought the views of those with an interest in immigration policy. I am mindful that two main types of immigrant come to Ireland. There is the immigrant who intends to stay and set up permanent residence in Ireland. Then there is the person who intends to work here for a period of ten or 15 years, send money home and perhaps be in a position to improve the life of his or her family back in the old country. We must allow for this type of choice among immigrants.

As I have pointed out, many of our friends and family members who went away in the 1980s returned in the mid to late 1990s. The onset of the Celtic tiger provided that opportunity and they brought back with them much-needed experience and many of them now contribute greatly to Irish society. We must be mindful of the fact that people might want to come here for a relatively short period to better themselves and then return home. It is not something they should be criticised for or chastised over in any way.

The Bill is important legislation which will allow us to regulate who will migrate to Ireland. The decision as to who can migrate to here is an important process. The Government has a responsibility to decide which foreign nationals can live here and who cannot. In doing this, the Government will be helping to make Ireland a better place to live in, both for Irish citizens and newcomers, as well as meeting the needs the economy might face at any particular time. It will also ensure that Ireland reduces the risk of being used as a base for international criminality. If the Government or its agents did not have the power to make these decisions, then effectively we would be operating an open door immigration policy. If that happened, immigration policy and legislation would be meaningless in this country. We would also be failing in our duty towards our European partners as regards ensuring the borders of Europe were protected. I am satisfied the Bill will give the Government a meaningful framework to make these important choices regarding migration into Ireland in the future.

I also want to take the opportunity to thank the many people who have decided to make Ireland their home, those who have come to make a contribution to our society and economy. They have brought many of their traditions and customs with them. In New Ross, many immigrants have integrated into society and contributed greatly to many events, such as our theatre and festivals. I look forward to that process continuing. It is something we should embrace and encourage.

As well as the general processes established by the Bill, there are a number of important specific developments that deserve mention. The process of securing a visa to migrate to Ireland up to this time has been unnecessarily dragged out for those seeking to move here. Separate elements of an application are considered at different stages of the review process and this has meant they take far too long to complete. Indeed, one of the most welcome aspects of the Bill is that structures will now be established which will allow all aspects of an application process to be consideredab initio. This will lead to decisions being taken on a far quicker basis and will ease the emotional pressure on applicants who must wait for long periods of time before a decision is made. It will also ease the financial burden on the State, which is responsible for monetary support of asylum seekers awaiting a final decision.

Many of the complaints I receive in my constituency office are from hauliers who want to employ foreign truck drivers and who sometimes face major difficulties trying to get in these people. The same is true in the medical sector. Business and commercial activity moves at a very fast pace. The task of trying to get visas for people to come to work in this country is complicated, drawn out and costs the State a good deal of money. If this Bill can effectively speed up that process, it will, I hope, mean a reduction in the level of frustration faced by many employers when they are trying to fill positions.

The Bill also provides a clear definition as regards who is, and is not, allowed to be legally resident in Ireland. It means that no foreign national can be in any doubt as to whether he or she is lawfully in the State. If he or she has permission from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, then he or she is lawfully in this State. If he or she does not have this permission, then the residency is not lawful and he or she has an obligation to leave immediately. The Bill provides that people living here illegally can now be subject to deportation without notice. This will end the situation we have seen in recent years where many who had been served with deportation orders with 15 days notice simply disappeared.

One of the most progressive aspects of the Bill is the concept of long-term residency, which will be recognised for the first time under Irish law. Up to this time, we have viewed immigration as being on a temporary basis. Immigrants had to apply for a continuous series of visas to allow them to reside in Ireland until they became eligible for naturalisation. This system does not provide stability in the lives of many immigrants who would like to reside in Ireland on a long-term basis.

The requirement to speak English is important as it will assist these long-term immigrants to Ireland to integrate into their new society.

One of the most disturbing aspects of immigration in recent years has been the apparent rise in the number of marriages of convenience which are arranged with the sole purpose of allowing someone to migrate to Ireland. This Bill includes a number of provisions which will make marriages of convenience far more difficult to organise and will reduce the possibility of someone using a marriage of convenience as a basis to migrate to this country. Due to the emotional nature of marriage, it is very important that we get this process right and I believe that the correct procedures are now being put in place to achieve this. It should be recognised, however, that Irish citizens who enter into genuine marriages with non-nationals have nothing to fear from the provisions of this Bill which deal with marriage.

The House recently discussed human trafficking as part of a debate on the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill and considered Ireland's responses to this vile form of human exploitation, the new anti-trafficking unit and the national action plan. The Bill contains many measures which will aid our fight against human trafficking and will help to provide a humane response to the victims of trafficking. Deputy Coveney and I have spoken about this issue and I believe we are both of the view that the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill is of vital importance. Rosslare Europort is in close proximity to my home in County Wexford. A number of television documentaries, in particular the BBC "Panorama" programme, highlighted that the Bulgarian criminal gangs are trafficking people through Rosslare and were bragging openly in the documentary that they used Ireland as a gateway to the UK. This was very alarming and I am delighted that provisions against human trafficking are included in this Bill. I refer to an incident in Rosslare some years ago when a container was opened and it contained people who had died inside it. People in County Wexford are keenly aware of the terrible tragedy which the awful and despicable act of human trafficking can cause.

I wish to acknowledge the discretionary powers resting with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with regard to immigration policy. It should be recognised that in the majority of cases where the Minister has used his discretionary power, this has been to accommodate people wishing to move to this country rather than to refuse entry. Deputy Ó Caoláin referred to the discretionary powers Act. Discretionary power is vital and I have seen it at work, particularly in instances where people who are very ill have requested permission for a family member to come to the country. I have found that Ministers have always been very helpful in this regard. This discretionary power is vital for the success of this Bill. I doubt there are many Members of this House who have not appealed to the Minister to use this discretionary power in individual cases and I am pleased this discretion is retained in the Bill.

I commend the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on presenting the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill to the House. This Bill is most welcome and it will allow us to develop long-term strategies to plan not only for immigration to our country but also to combat those who wish to circumvent our immigration laws.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on the Bill. One good thing about Thursday afternoons in the House is there are generally fewer Members wishing to speak and this gives speakers an opportunity to make longer contributions.

The introduction of this Bill is to be welcomed. This is a complex Bill and I do not propose to deal with in detail as this can be done on Committee Stage in a painstaking way to amend and improve it where appropriate and confirm its positive elements. This is an opportunity for Members to make general comments on immigration, asylum and residency issues. This Bill, rightly or wrongly, deals with asylum as well as with people who wish to come here to live and work and become residents and complex issues arise. It is worth noting that the number of people coming to Ireland to claim asylum has dropped dramatically in recent years, with fewer than 4,000 last year — 3,985, to be exact — a 66% drop compared to 2002.

There are many reasons for this decrease. The number of people claiming asylum is falling steadily rather than dramatically. There has been an increase in the number of people wishing to come to Ireland to work and start a new life here outside of the asylum process. However, many people try to come to Ireland, for whatever reason, to look for a better life. They use the asylum process to attempt to do so because it is the only means available to them. They end up in the same filing cabinet as people who are genuinely fleeing persecution and who may have been tortured and imprisoned and seek the protection of the Irish State. It always amazes me how they manage to arrive on the island of Ireland. My office in Cork is in a central location and I hear many tragic asylum stories.

New legislation in this area is required and this Bill is welcome. I wish to express some caution about the detention in prison of persons to be deported. I am pleased the Minister rejected the lobbying effort to have asylum seekers detained while awaiting a decision on their applications. This would have put Ireland back into the Dark Ages, even though other countries have decided to detain them. The detention of persons against whom a decision has been made to deport them is questionable, in particular when they are held in a prison cell. If it is the Government's view that people need to be detained, I suggest it considers using detention facilities that are not those used for prisoners and criminals, for the sake of humanity, if nothing else.

I am somewhat confused about the long-term residency status application process versus the short-term residency non-renewable one year residence permission. I assume the concept is to allow people to come here and study or work for one year and then return home. However, it is conditional on them not reapplying; there seems to be a non-renewable residence permission for one year. I ask the Minister to clarify this matter. It should be possible to facilitate a person who comes here and is given a one-year residency permit, who proves to be a great success in Ireland and who wishes to apply for a longer-term residency permit.

I refer to the asylum process as it stands and the proposals in the Bill. I would like to see a greater onus on the State to make decisions on asylum applications within a set timeframe and if it is not possible to do so, we should consider allowing asylum seekers to work. If the Department determines that it would take up to a year or 18 months to make an assessment of a complicated asylum application, there should be an acknowledgement that after a certain period of time the person should be allowed to integrate into society because he or she will be staying here for some time. Instead that onus is not on the State. Six months is a reasonable timeframe for the Department and its agencies to determine asylum applications. If a decision cannot be made in six months, that applicant's position should be reviewed in terms of his or her right to work and integrate into society in a more real way. For example, local authorities are required to make decisions on planning applications within eight weeks. It is fundamentally wrong for a system to allow an asylum application that may or may not be complex to drag on forever. Deputies have met many applicants who have been waiting for asylum decisions for years, which is not healthy for the people involved or for the State.

Comments have been made about an independent review system. There have been problems with the existing appeals tribunal regarding inconsistency in determinations. Barristers and solicitors will say that depending on who the judge happens to be leads to an increased or reduced likelihood of a positive outcome for an appeal of an asylum decision. We need to address that problem and ensure we have a structure in place that delivers absolute consistency. We are talking about people's lives. They are either genuine asylum seekers or they are not. It is of the utmost importance to have an absolutely consistent process that is not arbitrary or determined by the opinions of a judge or anybody else but is determined merely on the facts involved.

It is extremely important to retain the ministerial discretion to grant leave to remain on humanitarian grounds. I would question how it currently functions. Somebody may be refused asylum, fail during the various appeals processes and, in a last effort, appeal to the Minister to stay on humanitarian grounds. Those grounds are considered by a panel of advisers and a recommendation is made to the Minister. That system needs to be reviewed and clear criteria put in place as to what is valid when considering leave to remain on humanitarian grounds.

The previous speaker spoke about language issues regarding immigrants coming to Ireland. It is reasonable that somebody applying to remain in Ireland permanently should have made some effort to learn English or Irish or both in order to show good faith in their willingness and eagerness to integrate into Irish society in a real way. However, there are responsibilities on the State in that regard. I am very familiar with the English language teaching services for immigrants in my city, Cork, which are totally inadequate. While there are some good projects, they rely primarily on volunteers, with retired teachers agreeing to teach on a voluntary basis in accommodation provided in, for example, a convent which is provided voluntarily by the order involved. That is not good enough. If we are going to require people to have a reasonable knowledge of English and to make an effort to speak and converse in Ireland, we need to introduce the structures that can facilitate that process. I am not satisfied we are doing that at the moment.

A number of speakers raised issues regarding marriage and the supposed problem of marriage of convenience whereby people arrange marriages to make it easier for them to become residents in Ireland or to get permission to remain here. I would like to see figures on that. There is considerable potential for scaremongering and exaggerating a problem that I have not encountered in any significant numbers even though my office comes across many asylum applicants and other immigrants. I would caution us placing restrictions on the ability of someone to marry a foreign national, particularly as Ireland becomes a more multicultural and multinational place.

While the new Ireland should not have an open door policy on immigration, there certainly should be an acceptance that Ireland is an open and welcoming place for new people, new ideas, new workers, new industry, new investment and all the rest. In everything we do we should support the structure and the institution that is marriage and family. I would be very concerned at any effort to restrict or intimidate people away from marriage in that context. On Committee Stage, we can consider the specifics that have been expressed by a series of organisations on marriage issues. As I see a note being passed to Deputy Andrews, perhaps he will respond to the issue.

I will give a full reply in due course.

I thank the Deputy.

I have similar concerns regarding family reunification as I have on the requirement to get permission three months in advance to get married to a foreign national. When somebody has been allowed to stay in Ireland through a visa application process, asylum application process or leave to remain on humanitarian grounds, family unification is a very difficult issue for Government to handle because it has the potential to be abused. However, it also requires more priority than it is getting.

For example, a woman living in Cork came to Ireland from Eritrea and was granted asylum. She has twin daughters now aged 16. They escaped from Eritrea into Sudan following her escape from prison. She has applied to the Department to allow her children to come to Cork to live with her. She provides for them; she does not live off the State. They live with a former family doctor in hiding in Sudan.

We have been working with the UNHCR, the Department and a series of voluntary organisations to try to make this happen. Until Christmas, the Department's official position was that if they have no passports they cannot come. I said they do not have passports. When they went to Sudan they were 13 or 14 and on the run and they never had passports because most children in Eritrea do not. The Department said those were the rules and it could not set a precedent. I asked the Department if it was afraid to set a precedent that when there is strong evidence that these children are who they say they are, their mother is who she says she is, which we have already accepted because we have granted her asylum, we would allow them here although they have no passports. The answer I got was, "Yes, exactly".

I suggested the UNHCR go and see these children, interview them and vouch for who they are, which it did twice, and then return and issue a report for the Department to certify that these children and their mother are who they say they are. The UNHCR did that for the Department, but from fear of setting a precedent the Department said it could not allow that because they do not have acceptable papers to come to Ireland. These were two 15 year old girls living in an attic outside Khartoum.

I am glad the Minister used his discretion to assist in this case. However, the system has no flexibility for compassion in unusual circumstances to reunite families when the Department knows the case is appropriate for solving although the rules and guidelines the Department has laid out for itself will not allow it. That is a good example of where we have fallen down in family reunification.

I have said much about human trafficking in this House on the previous Bill. There is a problem. We grant temporary residency permits to victims of trafficking. That is the right decision and we are required to do it; we do not do it out of warm-heartedness. These permits should not be linked to co-operation with the Garda or successful prosecutions. A person trafficked into Ireland is a victim of exploitation and probably abuse. Unfortunately, this legislation applies only to non-EU nationals; many people trafficked into Ireland and exploited are not illegal immigrants but are entitled to be here.

A trafficked person, regardless of whether an EU national, needs time for recovery and support and assistance from the State. That is not being catered for here. This Bill allows them time to co-operate with the Garda and to be given temporary residency for that time. The reason we did not want trafficking victims to be included in this Bill but dealt with specifically in the trafficking Bill is that trafficking is not about illegal immigration. It may be, but it is not always. Somebody may be trafficked from Bandon to Belmullet and needs the protection of the State after that ordeal. This Bill misses the point on trafficking victims and I ask the Minister to re-examine that.

This Bill is long and complex legislation bringing together much previous legislation and consolidating it in one Act. That is welcome. It is timely legislation. Immigration and how we deal with asylum seekers tells much about a nation. In so far as we have a political impression of another country, it is often informed by how it treats immigrants. Former Prime Minister John Howard's Australia is a place where the treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers would be considered draconian and was bad for the image of Australia. Mr. Howard spoke in this House; I would not cross the road to hear him speak because of his immigration policies. It was an embarrassment to many Australians.

The American presidential election is centred largely on the positions the candidates take on immigration. In Ireland there is not such a debate. Much sensitivity surrounds it and rightly so. Perhaps people are discouraged from commenting on it because they think they will be accused of being racist if they have negative views of immigration or, maybe worse, being considered liberal if they have positive views on it. This debate does not take place as much as it should because it will be a major challenge for Ireland. This Bill is timely because it gives us the opportunity for this debate.

The first aspect that strikes me about the Bill is that integration is not dealt with. Integration is the other side of immigration that also needs to be debated fully and at the same time. Yet there is no signpost towards that issue anywhere in this Bill. It is unfortunate that it would not be spoken of in the same sense politically. This is a sort of rule book on how to get into this State, but we need to take it further than that in this debate. Integration is the key to the exercise.

Immigration policy is an executive function and nobody disputes that. It is for the Government to set the rules and there is no argument on that. Hence we are delighted to have this opportunity to have an input into how this is framed. Much of the criticism of the Bill centres on whether it should contain more and not leave so much for another day, for a ministerial diktat. I do not mean that in a pejorative sense. I share the view that more detail should be in the Bill.

Although employment permits do not come into this issue, I would like to make the following point on the development aid we give. We encourage people from countries to which we give development aid to get green cards. We train them and then assist in the brain drain from those countries by encouraging them to come to this country. There is a lack of coherence in how we deal with that issue. If we give training, as we do in many of the Irish Aid programme countries, and then encourage the well trained and educated people from those countries to come here through a green card preferential system, we lack coherence in policy.

What the Irish Government is doing in Chad is the best thing we have ever done for refugees. There are approximately 500,000 refugees in eastern Chad as a result of what has happened in Darfur in the past few years. The Irish Government has taken a brave, visionary decision and it is crucial for the EU that it succeeds. That is the frontline of the issue of refugees and how we protect them. The majority of refugees and internally displaced persons are in Africa or close to places where there is unrest. They are not in Europe. If we are to have a global policy that considers all refugees, that is where we should put most resources to protect refugees.

If a country can, to some extent, define itself politically on the issue of immigration, we can be pleased that our record is generally positive. One example of this was our decision to allow workers from all the countries that joined the EU in 2004 immediate access to our labour market. This sent out a positive message about Ireland's attitude to immigration. Likewise, the State's treatment of asylum seekers is generally positive. My one caveat in this regard is that applications take far too long to process. This is the one area in which we fall down.

The Bill provides that the Minister may require a bond from visa applicants. I have no difficulty with this measure but it would be prudent to include some provision whereby a maximum amount may be set. A bond that is too high effectively amounts to a refusal. Section 60(4) refers to maximum amounts that may be prescribed in the case of a foreign national's liability for his or her removal from the State. Section 13, which deals with deposits and bonds, should include a similar provision. I have no difficulty with the principle of bonds but I am concerned that there might be no constraint on the upper limit of those bonds.

Section 14 imposes no requirement that the Minister must process applications in a timely way. As I said, this is one of the general failings of our immigration system. Deputy Coveney gave an interesting example from his own constituency and I will do the same. I was approached by a person whose mother sought an extension of her visa because she was undergoing emergency medical treatment. Her application was certified by a medical practitioner who stated that she required medical treatment and was not fit to travel and advised that she be granted an extension of her visa in these circumstances. By the time the Department issued its decision on the application, she was dead. In any case, the application was refused. Such insensitivity is not uncommon.

Applications must be processed in a reasonable time. I do not propose a defined limit of eight weeks, six months or whatever, but the primary legislation should at least provide that applications are processed by the Minister within a reasonable time. I do not want to open up the possibility of the Minister being sued on a daily basis for not issuing a decision within a specific period, but there must be some provision to ensure more speedier processing of applications. In addition, where medical evidence is given that an individual requires an extension to a visa, that extension should be granted automatically. A case such as I described does not represent a good day's work for the Government.

I notice nothing in the Bill on the renewal of visas. Multiple entry on the same visa is another issue that has arisen in the courts. There is confusion as to whether a person who is here on a visa can leave and re-enter the State on that same visa during the three-month period. This issue must be reviewed.

The costs of a person's removal from the State are fixed on the deportee. I have no difficulty with this and I welcome the exclusion of minors from this provision. However, this exemption should be extended to include aged out minors, that is, those who arrived in the State aged under 18 years and have been waiting four or five years, through no fault of their own, for their applications to be processed. They should not face the costs of their deportation. It is a discretionary power and I am sure the Minister would not exercise it in those circumstances. Nevertheless, it would be helpful if this category of persons were specified in the Bill as being excluded from meeting the costs of their deportation.

Public health concerns represent a sensitive issue and I approach it with caution. It has rightly become part of the debate but we must deal with it in a sensible way. We must take measures to protect public health given the evidence of a higher incidence of certain contagious diseases among foreign nationals entering the State. I am not sure the Bill goes far enough in offering protection to the public against these contagious diseases. It provides that an immigration officer can form a view that a person could be a threat to public health by virtue of having one of the diseases listed on the World Health Organisation website. How can an immigration officer be trained to identify the signs of infection with tuberculosis, for example? It is worth investigating whether any immigration officer was able to identify that any applicant or person who presented at the borders of the State was carrying a contagious disease. I doubt it has ever happened. This provision is unsatisfactory and the Bill does not go far enough to protect public health.

Another ground for exclusion from the State is where someone has a criminal conviction. Presumably applicants will have to declare that they have no criminal record. If the person comes from a state with a spent convictions regime, should we recognise any spent convictions he or she may have or will we apply our own spent convictions legislation, if it is ever introduced? I ask the Minister to take this into account. He has been most generous with his time.

I understood Deputy Andrews is to introduce that Bill on Second Stage.

I await the permission of the Whips to do so.

Deputy Andrews has our permission.

Deputy Deenihan is very generous.

Section 16 provides for the revocation of visas. Again, I have no objection to this. One of the circumstances in which a visa can be revoked is where it was granted in error. In such cases, the State should bear the cost of the revocation and perhaps also the cost of repatriation.

The issue of aged out minors is a controversial one, which we discussed with the previous Minister, Mr. Michael McDowell. Given that it relates only to a limited group of people, I have argued that an amnesty should be offered. These are people who came here at a formative period in their lives and have benefited from the State's education system. This is as it should be because education is a right not a privilege. They have formed links with their communities. However, because of the slowness of the process and also perhaps because of the actions of lawyers, they have waited a long time for a decision.

One cannot argue that a 16 or 17 year old has conspired with the system to drag the matter out in the hope that the sheer flux of time will wear down the authorities and lead to a positive decision. When I was 16 years old, I had no clue about anything like that. What is at fault is the slowness of the process. Deportations of such persons should not take place lightly. A specific dispensation should apply in the case of aged out minors and it should be the most liberal of all liberal regimes. I understand the Minister will consider this in due course.

I bow to Deputy Coveney's knowledge of the issue of human trafficking. I admire how he has led the charge in this area. It is probably fair to impose a penalty of €3,000 on a carrier that unlawfully brings a person who does have the relevant documents into the State. It is probably unfair on shipping companies, however. It is much easier for airlines to prevent activity of that nature. It is obvious that many people come into this jurisdiction on boats or over land. It do not think this problem even arises in the case of airlines. That issue might be examined.

Before I move on to the issue of family reunification, I wish to state that I do not believe we should have an immigration appeals tribunal. There is no need for such an additional layer of bureaucracy. There are too many quangos in this country. Each of the 300 or 400 bodies of that nature detracts from the power of this House and the Government. They were each established to deal with a matter that Departments do not have the time to deal with, or cannot be trusted to deal with. Those who oppose certain aspects of this Bill have called for the development of an immigration appeals tribunal because they do not trust the Minister — they feel he has too much power. I do not accept that because I believe in democracy. The Government that has been elected should be able to, and be trusted to, discharge all the powers given to it in a fair manner. That is the nature of democracy. I have no difficulty with giving these powers to the Minister.

I would support the introduction in the Bill of some measures relating to family reunification. Section 50 of the Bill transposes into Irish law the EU directive on the mass influx of people during difficult times. It is obvious that the directive will not apply here — it has never applied. Section 50 also lists the family members, including grandparents and dependent children, who will be permitted to come here after an applicant has been given residence here on the basis of the directive. However, the rest of the Bill does not comment on the question of family reunification. The section of the Bill dealing with the EU directive contemplates the issue of family reunification, but the rest of the legislation is silent on the issue. We should show a little more courage by grasping the nettle in respect of this key issue. If this Bill is passed, Ireland will be the only European country that does not deal with this matter in its immigration legislation.

I do not have a problem with the proposal to allow costs to be awarded against lawyers. This country's asylum appeals mechanism is completely bogged down in spurious cases. People are taking advantage of the system, to the detriment of genuine refugee applicants. The cost of such behaviour to the State is out of all proportion to the genuineness of the applications. There are too many layers of appeal within the asylum process. It takes the system far too long to make a decision on an application for a visa or for asylum. Something has to be done about that. The taking of unnecessary, frivolous and vexatious legal proceedings is part of the problem. In many cases, lawyers take cases which have no merit for the sake of dragging out the process unnecessarily. Costs are awarded against lawyers in other types of proceedings. Two or three years ago, the master of the High Court famously made an order for costs against a lawyer because of the type of case. Provisions of this nature are included in other legislation. They are not unprecedented.

I should declare an interest — my father is a member of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. It is essential, in the interests of consistency, that the tribunal's decisions be published and circulated widely. It does not matter who is appointed to the tribunal, or how much experience they have, as long as there is openness, transparency and consistency in the tribunal's dealings. If people know where they stand legally, the entire system will benefit.

Like other Deputies, I am delighted to have an opportunity to make a few comments on the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008. Those who have spoken so far in this debate, including the previous speaker, have been generally well informed. I acknowledge the work done in this area by Deputy Coveney in Ireland and internationally. He has a deep understanding of this problem on a global basis.

This legislation establishes a new system of managing and tracking people entering the country. It deals with all non-EU entrants to the State, including visitors, holidaymakers, people coming to work here and asylum seekers. It relates mainly to those who are unlawfully in the State. Many of the people who come to my constituency clinic in Tralee every Monday evening have problems with their status in this country. Those who are in Ireland legally are concerned about the extension of work permits. Those who are here as asylum seekers raise issues relating to their applications. There is a lack of clarity in this area. People are confused about their rights. They sometimes find it difficult to access services at national level. I will speak about this aspect of the immigration issue later in my contribution.

The immigration division of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform needs to be resourced better and to be more accessible to people. People who have come to this country, including legal immigrants and asylum seekers, should have more access to information and services. I will refer to a few specific cases later in this speech. If we are to have a proper immigration policy in this country, and if it is to be implemented properly, additional backup services will have to be provided. There is no point in having legislation unless sufficient personnel are available to implement it. Those who need to access their rights under the legislation should be able to do so.

I wish to speak about legal immigration into this country. The statistics that have been provided for the last four years show that fewer people are coming here to work. Some 23,604 work permits were issued in 2007, compared to approximately 27,000 permits in 2005. There has been a reduction of almost 4,000. We must consider this matter carefully.

People involved in the hospitality industry have told me they are encountering major difficulties in getting work permits for people from China. Many people from that country work in the hospitality sector. If restaurants are to offer an authentic Chinese cuisine experience, they need to employ Chinese chefs and cooks. I know people who are experiencing great difficulty in getting Chinese workers into this country. That has implications not only for business, but also for the tourism sector. When people come to this country, they like to have choices. If they choose to eat Chinese food, they want to have the genuine product. Qualified people are needed to provide that product. Similar problems are being encountered by those running Indian restaurants.

Many people from India come to Ireland to work in the science and technology sector. People involved in the sector have told me about the problems they are facing. I understand that a substantial number of permits have been issued to people whose country of origin is India. In 2007 more than 4,000 Indians travelled to the State, which is a large increase on the previous year when 2,166 travelled. People who have visited India say there is great interest in Ireland there, which is due to the number of trade missions to India, which the Ceann Comhairle and others participated in over the past few years. More technicians are needed in the IT industry, which is falling behind. It is not as competitive internationally. With a more flexible approach, more engineers could be attracted from countries such as India.

I refer to the issue of asylum seekers. I am in constant contact with the staff of the local refugee office in Tralee, which provides a good service to refugees, mainly on a voluntary basis. Many of their concerns have been raised by previous speakers and they are influenced by the issues presented to the Minister by the Irish Refugee Council. I promised the head of the office I would put on record his staff's concern. The protection of suspected victims of trafficking is not as great an issue in Tralee compared with Dublin and other large urban centres but they welcome the inclusion of the section in this regard. Their view reflects that of the Irish Refugee Council, which is that provision needs to be further developed to facilitate the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the UN trafficking protocol. In particular, specific provisions relating to the protection of suspected trafficked children and the entitlements of those granted temporary residency should be added. I am sure the Minister will take those concerns into account. People who are trafficked should also be exempt from the pre-removal powers of detention provided for in the legislation. An explicit recognition of the right of a person who has been trafficked to seek international protection and to have access to free legal aid should be included. These calls on the Minister were also made earlier.

Regarding the protection for separated children, I have come across a few cases. Those working with refugees are generally disappointed that no new provisions have been included to improve protection for separated children, given the concerns about the shortcomings of the current system, outlined in many of their previous submissions and also in a recent report on child protection. Separated children are entitled to protection and measures should be put in place to improve identification, age assessment, registration, family tracing and issues such as treatment and care. In their view, a specific new provision is needed in line with Ireland's obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to address comprehensively these issues and provide for the granting of long-term residency where it is deemed to be in a separated child's best interest.

They are also concerned about the increased powers of detention in the Bill, which provides that persons can be detained at every stage of the protection process. I recognise this measure's importance in cases where people come to Ireland and involve themselves in criminal activity but those who have lobbied me feel this provision could be applied to anyone involved in the protection process and clarity is needed. There is a general welcome for the principle of a single decision process for all forms of protection to access claims for asylum and subsidiary protection but there are concerns about the current process, including the lack of just guidelines and the use of accelerated procedures. Clarity in this regard will be important when this Bill is enacted.

Many carriers have raised the issue of liability in the media recently, which the Minister might refer to when he replies. Carrier liability shifts responsibility for protection decisions from the State to carriers. Carrier sanctions will mean those seeking protection may be prevented from accessing the State in breach of the State's obligation under the 1951 convention. This may well have the effect of forcing persons to rely on traffickers and smugglers. At a minimum, the State should allow for an asylum protection related defence to carrier liability and exempt carriers where persons make protection applications upon arrival in Dublin or where persons are particularly vulnerable. I ask the Minister to address this when he replies.

These issues have been raised by my local refugee office and we were also well briefed by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, which has a number of issues with the Bill, which the Minister will address. I refer to the lack of staffing in the Department's immigration division. I am dealing with the case of an individual who applied for long-term residency in November 2006. He had been in the State legally for five years. He had a work permit but to ensure he could secure the jobs he wanted and freedom of movement between jobs, he applied for long-term residency. He was also going out with a neighbour of mine, which is how the case came to my attention. He was advised when he made his application that his case would be examined within six months. However, he was recently advised it could take another 15 months. Will the Minister address the issue of long-term residency and visas? Prior to Christmas, I contacted an official in the immigration division who said it was hoped new staff would be recruited and applications expedited but, apparently, that has not happened. It is my understanding 20% of the staffing requirement has not been replaced in the office. If this is a reflection of what is happening regarding long-term residency applications, it is very unfair. If this person leaves the country, he may not be permitted to return and, therefore, he is afraid to travel to visit his family. I am involved in a number of other cases where people are afraid to leave the State. Under the legislation, if somebody remains in the State without a work permit, his or her long-term residency application could be affected. If his or her work permit expired, he or she would be illegally in the State and would not qualify for long-term residency. This Bill would make it illegal for them to remain, which will create difficulties for many of them.

I am acquainted with a Russian woman who is married to an Irish citizen and has a young family. She legally resides in Ireland and her aging parents who live in Russia are anxious to come to Ireland for a period of time but because they are not EU citizens, they cannot do so. I do not know whether this Bill addresses such issues. The response I received to inquiries to the Irish embassy in Moscow was that the application was refused because current Irish immigration legislation makes no provision for residency visas for parents, siblings or other extended family members of an Irish, EU or third country resident. The embassy stated that residency-type visas are only granted to spouses and dependent children of Irish and EU qualifying third country nationals, those on employment visas or certain eligible categories of student visas. The Bill should allow for a certain degree of discretion in such cases. I will forward details of the case to the Minister. People should have the opportunity to remain here for a period of time longer than three weeks. Apparently, that is not permissible under existing legislation.

They could be allowed to stay for at least six months but they should certainly be given permission for longer than three weeks.

Our policies need to be firm but fair and clear. The reason for the influx of asylum seekers was a lack of policy in that area. People came here because they thought it was easy to enter and we provided good services to them. To the credit of Irish taxpayers, we did our best despite the absence of a system by providing accommodation and services. It is important that we adjust to the phenomenon of immigration. For many years, we experienced an outflow of people but now the flow has reversed.

The Minister will know from his legal background that clarity is essential in legislation. The more clarity we have, the easier it is to explain to people how they can come here and their obligations when they arrive. Some aspects of the Bill as currently drafted should be amended. The Irish Refugee Council and the Immigrant Council of Ireland have put forward well considered and constructive amendments which the Minister should seriously consider. In co-operation with Opposition spokespersons, he could devise a very good Bill which would anticipate further immigration legislation.

I am glad of the opportunity to speak on this fair and balanced Bill. A line in it states that at every step and turn there is justice and equality. I do not aim to plagiarise the Minister, as has been done in the House yesterday. Great care has been taken with the legislation.

The Ceann Comhairle was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the great wave of immigration came to this country. He had the onerous task of making important arrangements, often on the hoof, regarding numbers, finances and social services to ensure those who came here were treated with a modicum of courtesy and given a safe harbour for a certain period of time. I recall sitting at Cabinet when the issue exploded. Huge numbers were arriving despite the 1996 Dublin convention which required asylum seekers to return to the country they had last entered. I do not know how satisfactory that convention has been. When people come to my clinic, I often ask them the last place they visited before they arrived in Ireland. Their replies are either suitably vague or they tell me they were in Belfast, which tells its own tale because they obviously travelled to that city from the UK.

Second Stage speeches provide opportunities for philosophising. Within ten years, this small country has seen an influx of people from other countries but has somehow managed through earlierad hoc measures and in this more reflective period to give safe harbour and to promote a policy which is constructive and embraces all those who have come to our shores. This was a country of emigrants but in the space of ten years we have experienced significant levels of immigration. When the history of the period between the mid-1990s and 2010 is written, how this country coped will be the most amazing social feature of it. The numbers and the queues grew week by week, requiring measures to be implemented. However, we were always imbued with the idea that people should be treated with courtesy, hospitality, justice and equality. These values form the basis of the Bill before us.

Second Stage also allows to us discuss issues in general terms. I do not intend to raise individual cases because the Minister already hears enough about them from me. I recall when the Ceann Comhairle, as Minister, brought to Cabinet the places where asylum seekers would be housed. In Athlone, 400 mobile homes were made available for families. Some concerns were expressed that the natives would vent their opposition. However, nothing ever happened because they were relatively satisfied. Employment was provided because it was needed and an integration process was pursued. It was quite remarkable.

I pay tribute to the primary schools in areas into which there was such a huge influx of immigrants. These schools and the Department of Education and Science set about their task with great gusto in the belief that those coming to our shores are entitled to a basic education. I have visited the asylum seekers' site in Athlone on occasion. It is remarkable to watch youngsters returning home from school and alighting from the buses on which they have travelled. They all arrive on different buses because they are sent to various primary schools. It is not the case that all the children from the asylum seekers' site were sent to one school. Instead, they attend several schools within the catchment area. As a result, they enrich the lives of the young pupils who were already in the classrooms and the general culture of the schools.

I wish to comment on one of the remarkable aspects of the immigration process. My eldest grandchild, who is five, often speaks to me about his friends in primary school. To us, their names sound strange. However, that is not the case for those in primary school. The names Mark, Peter and John sound just as strange to people who have come to this country. A remarkable osmosis has occurred. Very young children's eyes are never blinded and they know no prejudice. They look on the world with a clear gaze and they are able to absorb an amazing amount in respect of those whom they meet, speak with or see. That is a fine development and it bodes well for a society which in a few years will, in every sense, be truly integrated.

If 10% of the population is comprised of immigrants, it is bound to have some impression on every facet of life in our country. That is as it should be. I recall the famous line from John Donne that "No man is an island". In an era when we debate the WTO, globalisation etc., what is happening here represents a true globalisation.

I wish to refer to a number of matters. I am sure they will be discussed in detail on Committee Stage. The Minister referred to the introduction of a statutory long-term resident status at section 36 and stated:

This status will be available for those who have at least five years' satisfactory residence in the State. Periods as an asylum seeker or short-term student will not be reckoned.

There is another group of long-term residents in Ireland. These people came here and, through no fault of the then Administration or the existing arrangements, discovered the decision-making process relating to their asylum applications took some time to complete. As a result, some of them spent four or five years as asylum seekers. In my view, these individuals may feel aggrieved about the exclusion, under the statutory long-term resident status provision, relating to periods people may have spent as asylum seekers. Perhaps consideration could be given to this matter. A sizeable group of people in this country were obliged to wait for long periods while their asylum applications were decided upon. A mechanism should be found whereby these people can be accommodated.

On family reunification, a number of matters will have to be resolved. A protocol will emerge after a period but there is a clear need for family reunification. I accept that there could be inherent dangers in respect of this matter. However, we should not always perceive matters in the context that there are dragons to be slain. We should deal with the facts as they emerge and are put to us. If we can deal with such facts, we should do so.

I accept that integration is not part of the Minister's brief. However, the Government has placed particular emphasis on the process relating thereto by appointing a Minister of State with responsibility in this regard. There is much to be done as regards integration. The Minister will be responsible for ensuring there will be coherence in terms of how we deal with those already here and those who will come in the future. Integration will be of major importance to the people who are already here. There is no point in any group of people sitting uneasily on the sidelines. In my view, arrangements should not be made in respect of such a provision.

There are a number of young people who attended primary and post-primary school and who have progressed to our institutes of technology and universities. In this regard, I have in mind a particular family the name of which I shall not be revealing. The family is in this country legally because the mother has an Irish-born child and was in this country when doing so meant one could stay. Her daughter is extremely bright and is attending one of the institutes of technology. She garnered a huge number of points in her leaving certificate and is making great strides. It is amazing that many immigrants lap up what the education system has to offer. These individuals are wonderfully open and receptive to learning, which is good. The young woman to whom I refer will be obliged to discontinue her studies, however, because she cannot pay her fees. The college was decent enough to reduce them from €12,000 to €8,000 but her family does not have a chance of raising the money to allow her to continue her studies. A humanitarian appeal, made by a number of people, including me, is pending. The purpose of it is to see if there is any way the young woman can remain within the State.

The State provides free education at primary and second level. The natural outcome of that is that bright young people will be encouraged to pursue third level courses. However, questions arise in certain instances as to how they might do so. I accept this matter is not relevant to the Bill but it must be examined.

I commend the Minister and those who work with him in the Department on a very balanced Bill. In my view, the Bill is just and humane. It is time we dealt with all of the matters that arise. There has sometimes been laxity, an overemphasis on particular points or concerns among people regarding these matters.

It would be wonderful if we could invite everyone who wants to come here to do so and be provided for. However, the world is not like that. Our small country has major commitments to its citizens both here and throughout the world. We must be fair both to those who come and to those who are already here. We must strike a balance between equality and justice.

I hope people will raise many points on Committee Stage. I look forward to the emergence of the full protocol relating to family reunification.

The family reunification issue is coming up more and more. I have a simple proposition and if it sounds like Pollyanna, so be it. I think the best of anybody who approaches me until I find out otherwise. There is no point approaching everybody with suspicion and wondering what they are up to. I believe each person who comes to me with their tale and if I can help I will. If I cannot, I am satisfied to say very definitely to a person, group or family that something cannot be done. I know enough about the system to realise this is the best approach to take.

I commend the thrust of the Bill and the Irish people, who within the space of ten years have been remarkably open and welcoming of the population which has come to our shores. It is by far a different story from what we met in the early days of our own emigration.

I thank the many Deputies who made contributions to this debate on what is, by any measure, a most important Bill. I also thank Deputies for their attendance for the discussion.

I note Deputy Naughten expressed a critical support for the Bill, which I welcome. I look forward to working with Deputy Naughten and other Deputies on the Bill as it proceeds through Committee Stage. I am always open to persuasion on Committee Stage of legislation and if an amendment is well-reasoned, merited and required, I will consider it.

The contributions and criticisms during the debate dealt with a wide range of issues, most of which directly related to the issues raised by the subject matter of this legislation. I cannot hope to address all those points in my reply this afternoon but I will endeavour to deal with as many as time permits.

One of the first and most fundamental questions raised during the debate was why immigration and asylum are combined in one Bill. The Bill covers both the issues of the protection of the asylum seeker and also the more general question of how to secure residence in the State if there is no entitlement to be in the State.

All migrants or intending migrants, even those claiming asylum, have in common a desire to come to Ireland and remain for a period. That is determined by the State. These people arrive at the same ports of entry and interact with the same immigration officers. They may seek to enter through the regular migration channel or they make a protection claim. A protection claim may be made later by a person who originally arrived as a residential visitor.

The persons concerned will be dealt with in the manner applicable to the nature of their claim. At the end of the process, the two streams converge with one of two outcomes. Either the people gain status and are issued with a residence permission by the same officials or they fail and are liable for removal by the same officials and in the same manner. There is considerable logic in dealing with all of this in a coherent and integrated way, based not least on considerations of efficiency and effectiveness.

Many Deputies complained that the Bill does not set out the rights of foreign nationals granted permission to be present in the State. There was a considerable misconception in the debate in this regard because a foreign national does not have rights to reside in the State. Irish citizens have rights to reside in the State and EU nationals have considerable rights regarding residency in this State. Persons who are not citizens of Ireland or EU nationals do not have a right of residence in the State. Some of the contributions were vitiated by a failure to understand that basic concept.

Deputies complained we have not given any indication of what rights are in mind. This is a complex area and the matter turns on the nature of the permission granted to the person. It is the case that foreign nationals lawfully in the State will be able to enjoy certain privileges. The presence of foreign nationals in the State does not flow from the exercise of any right they have to reside in the State. Rather, it is on foot of a permission to enter and reside which is granted by the Minister and is subject to conditions that the Minister considers should be imposed on that presence.

Deputy O'Rourke put it far more eloquently than I can a few moments ago when she indicated that not everyone in the world can come to Ireland. I have been trying to formulate that proposition in legal phraseology.

It is important to note that one of the big innovations in this legislation, which was welcomed on all sides of the House, was the introduction of section 36, which establishes a status of long-term resident. The long-term resident will be a migrant who comes to Ireland and acquires certain rights in the State. It is important, given the volume of migration which has taken place, that we create such a status.

Most other categories of foreign national are here not because they have a right, but because the State has chosen to give them permission to be here. This permission attaches conditions of the State's choosing regarding access to the labour market and State-funded benefits, among other matters. When we speak of the rights of foreign nationals, we must distinguish between those categories of persons and the others who have rights arising from international law, such as refugees, or in the case of long-term residents from the provisions of this Bill.

For example, the Bill treats a foreign national who has been granted a long-term residence permission and his or her family as if he or she is an Irish citizen in many respects. The only action such a person will not be allowed to take is vote in a general election, which is a matter of constitutional right and reserved to citizenship.

If he or she is a qualified long-term resident, the person and his or her family will be in almost the same position as a long-term resident, apart from a certain limitation on access to certain publicly-funded services. If he or she is the holder of a renewable residence permission, the conditions of that permission will, as provided for in section 127, set out the nature of rights attaching to that permission, for example, whether he or she can bring family members to Ireland and the extent to which he or she can access publicly-funded services, etc.

If he or she is the holder of an entry permission or a non-renewable residence permission, the likelihood is that he or she has applied to come to the State for a limited period only. This could be for a holiday visit, to study or to engage in seasonal employment. In these circumstances, his or her intended stay is limited and the permission will set out a limited eligibility for benefits and the like.

There is no right and there can be no expectation of family reunification for such a migrant, nor can there be the same expectation of access to State-funded services, as a long-term resident would have, for example, and is entitled to as of right under this proposed legislation.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide mechanisms to allow the Government manage migration to the State in a coherent fashion. The Bill provides clarity on how a foreign national's presence in the State is lawful or unlawful. That is as it should be. The Bill sets out the requirements which must be satisfied where foreign nationals want to visit the State, whether for a long or short term stay. That is also as it should be.

The Bill provides mechanisms for review of negative decisions in applications for visa. It provides for review mechanisms to ensure fair procedures where permissions are not renewed or are revoked. The Bill also sets out a more streamlined process for the determination of protection applications.

Apart from setting out the benefits associated with protection declarations and those associated with long-term and qualified long-term residence, the Bill does not set out the benefits associated with other less permanent forms of permission to be present in the State. That is left to domestic legislation and practice to determine. Any entitlements which may exist in the health, education or social welfare system are set out in the relevant domestic legislation governing those systems. Similarly, access to the labour market is governed by employment law.

While present in the State, foreign nationals enjoy many of the constitutional freedoms available to Irish citizens. They also enjoy the protections afforded by our equality laws, for example, and if they are working lawfully they are entitled to be treated fairly under employment laws. The Bill does not need to set out such matters again as there is ample legislation in the Statute Book dealing with them already.

I stress the need to balance rights and responsibilities. Persons who play by the rules have nothing to fear from this legislation; on the contrary, it enhances their status and allows the Government to provide greater transparency in the system. The majority of our migrants fall into this lawful category.

There were 155,000 lawful migrants registered with the GNIB from outside the European economic area, a very substantial number. Our problem in the past has been that a wholly disproportionate amount of time and money has been spent dealing with people who have no right to be in the State but who seek to frustrate the State at every turn in removing them.

I am glad to hear some Deputies mention that persons who are not lawfully here should leave the State. Deputies have been lobbied by various voluntary organisations outside the Government who do very good work in championing the rights of those who seek to migrate here, and their contribution in the debate is very welcome. That is a particular perspective on the issue. As a Minister, however, I must take a wider one.

I refer the House to the comment of the Supreme Court in the decision on Bodev The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Others, handed down on 20 December last. This is the latest authoritative guide from the Supreme Court on the responsibilities of the Government in this area. Deputy Rabbitte outlined many judicial decisions in his contribution but I did not hear a particular reference to this decision which is now the most fundamental one relating to the law of migration in the State.

The judgment sets out the responsibilities of the State as executive functions vested in the Government to operate immigration controls in the interest of the common good. Ms Justice Denham pointed out:

In every State, of whatever model, the State has the power to control the entry, the residency, and the exit, of foreign nationals. This power is an aspect of the executive power to protect the integrity of the State. It has long been recognised that in Ireland this executive power is exercised by the Minister on behalf of the State.

In enacting this Bill we are casting into legislative form what the Supreme Court has described as the essential feature of our system. The court in that decision upheld the power of the Minister to make schemes which would deal with particular aspects and categories of migrant and expressly affirmed it in the Bode case.

Deputy Naughten made a case for the introduction of a bridging visa system to deal with those who have fallen through the net, through no fault of their own. He gave as an example the case of the undocumented worker who comes here lawfully but for one reason or another was abused in respect of employment law and finds him or herself in legal limbo. Under the Bill such persons will be unlawfully present in the State once their residents' permission has expired. We need to distinguish between foreign nationals who, as Deputy Naughten rightly says, find themselves in that position through no fault of their own and those who, having been refused a renewal of their residents' permissions, deliberately refuse to comply with their obligation to leave the State.

I am bringing proposals to the Government on this matter to ensure that certain undocumented workers who find themselves in this position, through no fault of their own, form a distinct category and can be accommodated. This can be done, as it was in the case of the Irish-born children through an appropriate scheme under the executive power of the State. One of the advantages of permitting us to proceed by way of scheme to define exact categories is that it allows us to proceed by way of trial and error in a matter of this type. The Supreme Court has upheld the power of the Minister to make schemes of that character.

I am, however, less disposed to look favourably on the case of a foreign national who knowingly remained in the State after the expiration of his or her permission. This would condone illegality not only on the part of the foreign national but also on the part of the employer who would be in breach of our employment laws by continuing to employ such a person. Under present arrangements there is scope for exploitation of migrants. My colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, has brought forward new legislation in this area and a new National Employment Rights Agency has been established with the remit of tackling exploitation in the workplace. Concealing or perpetuating the employment of an illegal employee does a disservice not just to that employee who is by definition being exploited but also the interests of workers generally. I take Deputy Naughten's point, which the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has also made, that there is a specific category of undocumented worker for whom we must provide on foot of this legislation and by way of scheme.

I share the views expressed by many Deputies on all sides of the House on the great opportunity we have, as a country of net inward migration, to take on the challenge of integration. The programme for Government took account of its significance by establishing the office of a Minister for State with responsibility for integration. The programme also sets out measures to be taken in respect of integration.

Deputy Rabbitte and others claimed that access to justice will be restricted for those who are unlawfully present in the State and who, notwithstanding that unlawful presence, fail to remove themselves as required under section 4 of the Bill. This line of argument ignores the processes under the Bill whereby persons will arrive at being unlawfully present in the State. In general a foreign national cannot arrive in the State and be unlawfully present here without doing so knowingly. The typical example is a person who stays on after his or her entry or residence permit has expired.

The other typical case arises when a holder of a permission is notified of a proposed revocation and makes representations to, but fails to convince the Minister. In the special case where a person claims protection based on the fear of persecution or related issues there is a thorough process in which the claimant participates in the investigation of the claim. In all these cases the foreign national's presence in the State remains lawful until the process has reached a final decision. If that decision is negative it will be for the person to remove himself or herself. In effect there will be no surprise circumstances in which a foreign national will become unlawfully present in the State.

This legislation will not effect all the processes involving access to the courts, which those who are removed from the State avail of extensively. Access to the courts includes the Article 40 process for ascertaining the validity of a detention as well as injunctive relief which may be sought to delay a removal. That persons in those circumstances avail of those processes and that the Garda does not interfere with them is evidenced by the charter flights to Nigeria and other destinations that leave only half full. The other half of the intended passengers are in the High Court obtaining injunctions to stop their removal, although they have already been through exhaustive processes. The greater simplicity and clarity introduced in this legislation will ensure that there will be fewer grounds for invoking the jurisdiction of the High Court to set aside the removal of a particular person from the State.

Deputy Rabbitte said that my officers and the Attorney General ignored a celebrated extradition decision in 1964, in The State (Quinn)v Ryan involving Irish citizens, and that it has had no effect on modern police practice. That point is without substance. There has been a revolution in thinking in the courts and police practice since 1964. This legislation is not being implemented in the spirit of the practice that the Supreme Court condemned then.

The Bill will abolish the position whereby, even though a foreign national is by any measure unlawfully present in the State, he or she may not be removed until the elaborate process leading to a deportation order has been gone through. That process may take longer than the visit originally approved. The law is clumsy and all but unworkable. By making the changes proposed in this Bill we are ensuring that there are sensible, proportionate and fair processes for ensuring that persons will know what their status is in the State and that they will not be taken by surprise by a change in that status from lawful to unlawful presence. If a person is unlawfully in the State after those processes it makes absolute sense that he or she should be obliged to remove him or herself from the State. Once that sensible and logical legal position is in place it is of no use unless there is a practical means of ensuring that it is observed by removing those who choose to flout it by their continued unlawful presence.

Question put and agreed to.