I appreciate the Minister of State taking this Adjournment matter. The issue that arises concerns residency and is little less than an outrage, language I rarely use, and I have been a Member of this House for a long time.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform grants permission to stay under section 3 of the basic legislation. I will give an example without naming the individual concerned as the person is named in the question for information. A letter written in October states:
I am directed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to refer to your application for temporary permission to remain in the State. As an exceptional measure, I am to inform you that the Minister has decided to grant you temporary permission to remain in the State for three years until 21 October 2011.
Many people receive these letters. The letter goes on to set out a number of conditions in regard to the person's right to remain in the State. One has an expectation of being able to remain in the State permanently if one obeys the law.
What happens in Galway is that individuals who receive this type of letter, and who have been staying in hostel accommodation, later receive another letter. The individual concerned received the other letter the following day stating:
Dear. . . . .
The Reception and Integration Agency has been informed that you have been granted leave to remain. You must now make arrangements to move into the community and begin your new life in Ireland. As the accommodation you currently occupy is for asylum applicants and noting that you were granted leave to remain on 21 October 2008 you are required to leave this accommodation as soon as possible but no later than 11 November 2008.
The letter goes on to make many helpful suggestions.
The individual presented to the GNIB in Liosbán, where he was asked for his passport. He responded that he had with him an old passport when he arrived in Ireland. We spent two weeks trying to find that passport at the level of the Department, only for him to be told when he found it that an up-to-date passport was needed. Without a stamp four, the individual, who is only allowed to stay in his hostel out of charity, cannot register for housing, social services or medical benefits. Effectively, the GNIB is operating its own immigration policy in complete frustration of the policies of the INIS.
Four such cases are currently outstanding in Galway and gardaí have looked for an up-to-date passport in each. The people concerned are from Zimbabwe, where matters are impossible, Somalia, where there is no state, Liberia and Eritrea. In the Eritrean case, from which I cannot receive satisfaction, it is suggested that the Garda will write a travel document to enable the individual to leave Ireland in order to apply to the Eritrean Embassy in London. This individual has fled from Eritrea after coming under Islamist pressure for being a Christian. He will have to present himself to the embassy, pay £500 sterling and sign an undertaking that anything he earns in Ireland for the rest of his life will go back to Eritrea. The gardaí in Liosbán see nothing wrong with that scenario. In the original letter sent by the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Conor Lenihan, the suggestion was made that the Garda had received a faxed copy. When my office raised the matter, it was told that Garda procedures do not recognise facsimiles because one would not know what "they" would be up to in terms of forgeries.
The original letter in one case is still missing. It was sent from the Minister's office to the Phoenix Park. In another case, there is not even the sight of a letter. The remark made in Liosbán when my copy was produced was to the effect that I am only a Deputy and not a garda, so the individual concerned will not get a stamp four.
In my 30 years of public life, I have never been required to speak this way. I am conscious that half of my family have gone abroad. If I go to America I travel with Irish status and I am conscious that people have basic rights to move all over the world. I do not believe in a State that has an unaccountable police force. If any Deputy wishes to visit Liosbán, it is open from 7.30 a.m. until 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. No information is made available in any language. People arrive with their sleeping bags and wait their turn and, when they are told they will not get their stamp, they leave and return the following morning at 6.30 a.m. It is a scandal and a disgrace. I have before me a stack of letters on the issue.
I spoke to a decent sergeant and a good inspector who informed me that they forwarded my correspondence to the superintendent of the section, who will send it to the divisional chief superintendent. However, I cannot arrange a meeting with the western region Assistant Commissioner. I want these cases to be resolved before I raise them again next week in the Dáil.