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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 21 Jun 2000

Vol. 163 No. 20

Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill, 1999: Second Stage.

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

In the past decade, Irish society has undergone a palpable change. From being a struggling open economy on the north-western fringes of Europe, we have turned the economic corner. Ireland is now a vibrant and thriving place.

For many years Ireland was a country of net, and often very substantial, emigration. That is not to say that immigration did not occur, rather that in past decades the scale of outflows of population far exceeded the inflow of non-nationals seeking to establish themselves here. One of the ways in which the new economic phenomenon manifests itself is that Ireland is now a magnet for immigration on a scale not experienced heretofore. More and more people see Ireland as a place where they can come not just for a holiday or to avail of one of the many excellent courses of education available in both the private and public sectors, but to establish a new way of life for themselves and contribute to the economic life of the State.

We have long seen ourselves as Éire na bhFáilte, Ireland of the Welcomes. Immigration policy over the years has been and continues to be informed by this perception of ourselves. We welcome those who wish to visit us and experience some of our cultural and social life. We welcome also those who come to Ireland lawfully as students or as workers to a land of economic opportunity, where they can share in the prosperity of the State and make their own contribution to that prosperity. We also welcome to our shores those who are in need of the protection of the State and to whom we owe the obligations reflected in the various international instruments to which Ireland is a party, chief among which is the Geneva Convention 1951 relating to the status of refugees.

Our immigration laws have accommodated the needs of these various visitors to Ireland over the years, and they must continue to evolve to meet those needs. It is clear, however, that what served us in this regard in the past, when immigration was a trickle, is becoming less and less suited to meet the needs of modern Irish society, with its increased demand for immigration and the increased scale of abuses which unfortunately go hand in hand with that demand. That is why I have in course of development within my Department a set of comprehensive proposals to replace completely the Aliens Act, 1935, the present basis of immigration law and practice, with a new code of immigration and residence law which will provide a legislative framework for the development and implementation of modern immigration policies designed to meet the needs of Irish society now and into the future, and to respect the rights of those who seek to come to our shores.

While these proposals are in course of development, however, difficulties are being faced in the operation of immigration law and practice. These day-to-day difficulties arise out of those who would seek to take advantage of Irish hospitality, by either outstaying their welcome or by circumventing or exploiting for their own ends the proper processes through which Ireland extends its welcome to the world. Accordingly, I have brought forward the proposals in this Bill, in advance of the comprehensive proposals, to be able to tackle now the problems which Ireland is facing on a daily basis.

One of the more sordid aspects of these problems is that Ireland is now experiencing what our colleagues in the European Union have already been undergoing for many years – we are being targeted as a destination for illegal immigration, and that targeting is being done principally by international organised criminals with a network of resources and information at their disposal. I refer of course to the exploitative activities of those who traffic in human beings, people who have no lawful authority, no answerability and no concern for the good of anyone or anything except themselves and their wallets. This is a new phenomenon in this country, but internationally it is well known that organised criminal entities know well the profit potential in exploiting vulnerable non-nationals by flouting immigration controls here and abroad with absolutely no regard for the safety or well-being of their victims.

Last weekend we saw in the United Kingdom an horrific example of the disregard shown for the safety of these vulnerable people. I can only imagine the horror of what these people suffered prior to their deaths and the great sadness which has been inflicted on their loved ones many miles away. We cannot allow the activities of people responsible for such callous disregard for the life of others to go unchallenged in this country. This activity must be recognised in our law as what it is – self-serving and inhuman criminality. Our legislative framework is not properly equipped at present to deal with these traffickers. There is no doubt that this weakness is being exploited and that people are continually being smuggled into the State.

The House will be aware that the level of asylum applications has been increasing significantly. In 1992 we received 39 applications. By 1999 this had risen almost two hundred fold to 7,724. We are receiving approximately 1,000 applications per month, more in one average working day than the entire annual intake of eight years ago. This type of increase does not occur by accident. Asylum seekers, many of whom did not even know where their destination was to be, often tell of large sums of money paid to traffickers. Our procedures for dealing with asylum claims make inland applications possible. This is only right, because it would be untenable and a breach of our international obligations if we were to deny a person the right to access the asylum process in the State simply on the technical ground that the application was not made at the point of entry. However, less than one quarter of applications are made at points of entry to the State. The remainder, over 75%, are made at my Department's offices in Mount Street in Dublin by people who have entered the State illegally and who have evaded the normal immigration controls. We know from intelligence sources that taxis and private vehicles are travelling daily from Northern Ireland and discharging their illegal passengers in Dublin.

These are but a few of the aspects of what is happening in this country which makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that applicants are being smuggled across our borders in an organised, clandestine way by unscrupulous commercial traffickers. That our systems and our asylum framework are incapable of preventing this activity, and as a result offer the occasion for international people traffickers to endanger the lives of their victims while feathering their own nests, is clearly unacceptable. The Bill is intended to address the inadequacy in our legislative framework by criminalising the activity of these traffickers and providing necessary ancillary powers. As I said already, the problems we discuss are not unique to Ireland. However most other jurisdictions, including most of our EU partners, already have legislation of the type provided for in the Bill, and the lack of such provisions in our law makes Ireland more attractive to the traffickers.

It is worth mentioning that the link between traffickers and organised crime has also been recognised at UN level, and work is now progressing on the negotiation of protocols to the draft UN Convention on Organised Crime to deal with the smuggling and trafficking in human beings. Most recently, the Heads of State or Government of the European Union at the European Council meeting at Lisbon on 19 June restated the commitment made at Tampere in Finland in October last to tackle the evil trade of trafficking in human beings and vowed to bring forward legislation by the end of this year to ensure that those who engage in this trade will face severe sanctions in all member states. Needless to say, we fully support this initiative. The EU legislation will prescribe a common approach to the criminalisation of trafficking in human beings. That is in no sense an argument for doing nothing for the present. We clearly need the provisions now to respond to the evil of trafficking occurring on a daily basis.

Along with the measures to criminalise the trafficking of illegal immigrants, other important provisions of the Bill are designed to ensure a fair and firm set of procedures, including court procedures, which will allow for the provision of the protection of the State to those genuinely in need of it while ensuring that those who are not entitled to a welcome in the State, or who have outstayed their welcome, will be sent out of the State without undue delay when due process has been exhausted.

I have taken the opportunity provided by this Bill to include proposals to provide for a statute-based scheme of judicial review for asylum and immigration cases at section 5 of the Bill, to make certain technical changes to the Refugee Act, 1996, necessary to facilitate the commencement of that Act in full at section 9 of the Bill, and to refine the deportation process under the Immigration Act, 1999, at section 10 of the Bill. I will come to the detail of those provisions later.

Section 2 is the central section of the trafficking provisions of the Bill. Subsection (1) of this section makes it an offence for any person to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into the State of a person whom he or she knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, to be an illegal immigrant or asylum seeker. The term "illegal immigrant" is defined in section 1 as a non-national who enters or seeks to enter or has entered the State unlawfully. In general, there are three main categories of non-nationals who enter the State illegally. The first are persons arriving from a place other than the UK or Northern Ireland who do not present themselves to an immigration officer for leave to land. The second are persons arriving from the UK or Northern Ireland who are not citizens of states which are exempt from visa requirements and who do not possess the required visas. The third category are those people who may be the subject of a deportation or exclusion order.

As the House will see, the offence also covers trafficking in asylum seekers. The House will, I am sure, condemn unequivocally the actions of those, many of whom may be part of international organised criminal gangs, who profit by exploiting asylum seekers and by flouting our immigration controls. The issue here is not whether the trafficker's cargo is an illegal immigrant or an asylum seeker but that the cargo is people – people who may be subjected to treat ment which runs counter to everything which we in the civilised world have tried to achieve in international standards for the safeguard of human rights. In the terrible case which occurred last weekend in the UK, I am sure it will not matter to the UK authorities whether these unfortunate people were asylum seekers or not. What will matter is that the person or persons responsible for their deaths should be made accountable before the law. That is the correct approach.

The Bill will criminalise the activities of traffickers, including traffickers in asylum seekers, but such criminalisation does not in any way affect the rights of the individual asylum seeker. In so far as the asylum seeker is concerned, the position concerning his or her admission to the State and the processing of his or her application remains unchanged – he or she will continue to be dealt with in accordance with all the procedures and rights appropriate under the current arrangements or under the Refugee Act as soon as that comes into operation, which I expect will be shortly after the passage of this Bill – I will touch on that later. What comes within the scope of these provisions is the activity of the traffickers.

Subsection (2) provides that the offence is committed only when the entry into the State of the illegal immigrant or asylum seeker is facilitated for gain – in other words the offence catches the profiteers only. Those who act for humanitarian purposes or because of family links etc. do not commit an offence under the Bill. This is an important aspect of this Bill and I ask Senators to be aware that this effectively ensures that the scope of the offence catches the profiteer and does not affect the bona fide activities of genuine people or genuine organisations.

Nor will the legitimate operations of airlines and ferry companies be affected by the trafficking provisions of this Bill as these provisions create a criminal offence which requires normal criminal standards of proof and in this instance specific evidence of knowledge and intent. It is important to understand there is a difference between the criminal offence of trafficking and carriers' liability which is imposed by law in most other countries. Carriers' liability legislation imposes responsibility on carriers to check the documentation of passengers to ensure that they have the necessary authorisation to enter the State. If passengers are landed, and it transpires that they do not have the necessary authorisation, the carrier can be automatically fined. Such matters are not provided for in this Bill but I am considering whether such provisions should be a feature of our law and I hope to bring proposals in this respect to Government after consultation with carriers such as hauliers, shipping companies and airline companies.

Subsection (1) also provides that on conviction on indictment of a trafficking offence a person will be liable to an unlimited fine or up to ten years' imprisonment or to both fine and imprisonment should the court consider it appropriate. In addition, there is provision in section 3 that a vehicle suspected of having been used in the commission of an indictable trafficking offence may be detained, initially by the Garda and thereafter by order of the court, where it is necessary to ensure that it is available for the court on conviction to decide to order its forfeiture. In accordance with subsection (5) certain persons, including owners, part owners and drivers of the vehicles may apply to the court for its release and the court may release the vehicle in certain circumstances, including where the circumstances justifying its detention no longer exist and where security is given and a guarantee that the vehicle will be made available for forfeiture if such is subsequently ordered by the court.

The Bill also provides in section 4 that a court may, on conviction of a person on indictment of a trafficking offence, in addition to or in lieu of any penalty, order that the vehicle used in the commission of the offence should be forfeited. The possibility of forfeiture arises in accordance with subsection (2) of this section where the convicted person is the owner or part owner of a vehicle or is the director or manager of a company which is the owner or part owner of the vehicle. Where the convicted person is the person in charge of the vehicle, the vehicle can still be forfeited according to subsection (3) if the owner or part owner knew or could with reasonable diligence have discovered that the vehicle was being used for the purpose of the commission of the offence. I emphasise that there are safeguards for the owners of property in the section, including the provisions of subsection (5), which provides that owners or other persons with an interest in the property must be given an opportunity by the court to show why a forfeiture order should not be made.

Other provisions of the Bill dealing with necessary ancillary powers in relation to the investigation and prosecution of the trafficking offence include section 6 which provides Garda powers to search vehicles and persons in vehicles; section 7 which provides for Garda powers of entry, search and seizure; section 8 which ensures that the offence of immigrant trafficking will be covered by the provisions of the Bail Act; and section 11 dealing with offences by bodies corporate.

I emphasise that the measures which I am proposing in this Bill are but one aspect of an overall strategy which the Government has adopted. This strategy leans heavily towards ensuring that our obligations under national and international law in relation to asylum seekers are fully met but it must also be underpinned by measures to ensure that our systems are efficient, effective and not open to abuse.

The proposed changes to the deportation procedures set out in the Immigration Act, 1999, which are provided for in section 10 have been developed in light of the experience of almost 12 months of the operation of that Act. That experience demonstrates a pressing need to refine the deportation process to make it more effective. It would be helpful to Senators if I gave a brief overview of how things have operated to date. Under the Immigration Act, 1999, each person, with some narrowly defined exceptions, in respect of whom deportation is being considered is informed of that fact and invited to make representations in writing within 15 working days. A total of 1,394 notifications of this type have issued to date. The bulk, not all, of the notifications have been sent to failed asylum seekers, people whose claim for asylum have been rejected on appeal or have been turned down in the first instance and not appealed. Of the number invited to make representations as to why a deportation order should not be made, 847 people, or 60%, did not make any. In almost half of those cases the invitations to make representations, which had all been sent by registered post, were returned as undelivered. Some 532 people availed of the opportunity to make representations and 15 people either consented to deportation or left voluntarily.

Once a deportation order has been made following consideration of the case by reference to the criteria set out in the 1999 Act and taking into account any representations made, the deportee is notified of the making of the order and instructed to report to a named Garda station at a specified time for the purpose of deportation. To date, I have made 399 deportation orders. Of that number, arrangements for removal have been made in respect of 233 persons. There have been supervised departures of 31 people and a further seven people left the State before deportation could be effected. In another 73 cases the deportation order cannot be executed pending the hearing of judicial review proceedings initiated by the deportees. In a further 14 cases, the deportation orders have been revoked, mainly on the advice of the Attorney General's office. Technical difficulties of various kinds, such as the need to obtain proper travel documentation, have held up the departure of the deportee in 49 cases. A further eight deportations are currently being arranged. In the remaining 98 cases – approximately 72% of cases – excluding the judicial review cases or cases where the order has been revoked, where arrangements for deportation had been made, the deportees have in each case chosen to flout the requirement to turn up at the named Garda station at the appointed time. In a further 119 cases removal cannot be effected because the persons are not at their last known address.

One may speculate that a proportion of those who have disappeared from the system at the various stages along the way may have already left the country for unknown destinations. In relation to the 3,000 or so asylum applicants who have abandoned their applications and who are no longer in the social welfare system, that speculation may have a strong basis. It is also possible that some of those who have not availed of the invitation to make representations as to why they should not be deported or who have failed to comply with the requirements of a deportation order when made may have assumed fresh identities and reapplied for asylum, thus getting back into the social welfare system or are otherwise still in the State and making a living by working illegally.

There are provisions in the Refugee Act for fingerprinting asylum seekers and those provisions – which are soon to come into operation along with the rest of that Act – will help in the identification of those who seek to flout the system. The provisions are of a kind which permit bilateral exchanges of fingerprint information with other EU states. I have already entered into such arrangements on behalf of the State with the UK and I am concluding arrangements with France.

The figures demonstrate the need to ensure that the deportation process is adapted so as to make the requirement to leave the State realistically enforceable. Where a person fails to comply or there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that he or she will not comply with the requirements of a deportation order made after due process, including an opportunity for the person to make representations as to why it should not have been made, then the power must be there to ensure that the order is obeyed. I have accordingly brought forward the proposals in section 10 of the Bill to strengthen the deportation provisions of the Immigration Act, 1999, in order to secure a greater proportion of supervised departures of deportees than occurs under present law.

Paragraph (a)(i) of the section inserts in section 3 of the Immigration Act the general statement of principle that a person who is the subject of a deportation order is liable to detention in accordance with the provisions of the Act and that this detention is for the purpose of ensuring his or her deportation from the State. This makes it clear that the Minister's executive powers in these matters, which have been long recognised by the courts, are to be exercised in line with the policy, procedures and limitations set out in the Act.

Paragraph (a)(ii) of section 10 replaces the existing section 3(9)(a) of the Immigration Act with a much expanded version, setting out in a lot more detail the sort of practical arrangements that can be made to ensure the successful supervised departure of the deportee. Under the present section 3(9)(a), which sets out the content of the notice of the making of the deportation order, the only requirement that can be made is that the person concerned present himself or herself to an immigration officer or garda at a specific date, time and place for the purpose of his or her deportation.

The amendment restates that requirement at subparagraph (a)(i)(l) of the amended section 3(9)(a). Along with that, the other sub-subparagraphs provide for a number of additional practical requirements that can be included in the notice, such as the production of any travel documents, passports, tickets or other documents required for deportation purposes that the person may pos sess; co-operation with a garda or immigration officer to obtain travel documents; the requirement to reside in a particular area or address in the State while arrangements are being made – this provision can be necessary where, for instance, there is likely to be a delay in obtaining a passport for the person from the country of origin; a requirement to report periodically to a specified Garda station or an immigration officer – this is designed to ensure that the person will continue to be available for removal once the arrangements are finalised; and the requirement to notify a garda or immigration officer as soon as possible of any change of address.

Paragraph (a)(ii) of the amended section of the Act enables a garda or immigration officer, for the purpose of the deportation of the person concerned, to make a further requirement or requirements of the kind set out in subparagraph (i). This is to cater for the situation where a deportee reports as requested to a Garda station for the purpose of deportation, but some impediment emerges which make immediate removal impossible for the time being.

These are all very practical measures designed to minimise delays due to necessary administrative work, to ensure that the deportee can remain in his or her regular accommodation while awaiting the finalisation of the arrangements and to facilitate the return of the person as soon as that can be done. Any additional requirement must, like those in the notice of the making of the deportation order itself, be in writing, with a copy in a language that the person understands where this is necessary. Our experience to date shows that some combination of these requirements is likely to be necessary in each case to ensure that the deportee remains available for removal from the State on foot of the deportation order. Which requirement or combination of requirements should be applied in particular cases is a matter for decision in the circumstances of each case.

Section 10(b) makes changes to section 5(1) of the Immigration Act dealing with the detention of a deportee. The existing section 5(1) provides that where a Garda or immigration officer with reasonable cause suspects that the deportee has failed to comply with any provision of the order or with a requirement in a notice of the making of the deportation order, the deportee may be arrested without warrant and detained. This detention is of course with a view to ensuring the deportation.

Section 10 expands the grounds on which arrest and detention of a non-compliant deportee may arise. The present ground for detention is restated by way of paragraph (a) of the new section 5(1) of the 1999 Act. The additional grounds for detention are to be where a Garda or immigration officer, with reasonable cause, suspects that the deportee intends to leave the State and without lawful authority enter another state, in effect to abuse the common travel area arrangements between here and the United Kingdom – that appears at paragraph (b); the deportee has destroyed his or her identity documents or is in possession of forged identity documents – that appears at paragraph (c); or the deportee intends to avoid removal from the State – that appears at paragraph (d). Any detention under this provision is of course subject to the conditions and safeguards set out in the remaining subsections of section 5 of the 1999 Act. These deal with placement in a mode of transport about to depart, proper accommodation during the journey, the non-applicability of detention to persons under 18 years, provision for review by the court of a detention where the deportation is under court challenge and the overall limit on the period of detention in any case. I underline again the explicit provision that detention under the 1999 Act, as spelt out in this amendment, is for the purpose of ensuring the deportee's removal from the State and for no other purpose.

Section 6 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as it stands, allows for service of notices either personally or by registered or recorded post. This can only work properly, however, where notice is sent to and received by the person at the address which that person has most recently supplied. The present provisions of Article 11 of the Aliens Order, 1946, and new section 9(4A) of the Refugee Act, which is being inserted by section 9(a), place a responsibility on the individual concerned to ensure that the appropriate authorities are kept abreast of that person's up-to-date address. This is essential to the serving of notices. It is open at present to an asylum seeker, a deportee or a potential deportee to try to delay or frustrate the process by avoiding acceptance of the notice, either by moving without telling the authorities or by simply refusing to accept registered post from the postman. In order to ensure that the process cannot be evaded in this way, section 10(c) modifies section 6 of the 1999 Act to provide that the person concerned will be deemed to have received the notice three days after that notice has been sent by registered post or any other form of recorded delivery to the last address provided to the immigration or asylum authorities.

I am satisfied, having consulted the Attorney General's office, that the modifications to the Immigration Act, 1999, provided for in section 10 are justified in the light of our experience of the practical operation of the Immigration Act to date. They allow for a common sense degree of flexibility in their operation, while remaining consistent with our human rights obligations under both the Constitution and international instruments to which Ireland subscribes. In particular, they are in line with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, which at Article 5.l.f specifically envisages the necessity of detention in contemplation of deportation of a person, subject always to the existence of proper conditions and safeguards. In conjunction with the recently announced establishment by the Garda authorities of the National Immigration Bureau and the assignment of additional resources to immigration matters generally, I am confident of achieving my aim to increase the proportion of supervised departures from the State of those who after due process are no longer entitled to be in the State.

One of the features of our constitutional system of justice is the system whereby the High Court has power to review the administrative actions of public and private bodies. The judicial review system, although of long standing in Irish law, is not based on or regulated in any general way by a primary statute. The procedures and some of the principles governing the invocation of this jurisdiction of the High Court are set out in Order 84 of the Rules of the Superior Courts, 1996, but there are no rules which are specific to immigration or asylum matters. The purpose of section 5 is to enshrine into primary legislation, for the first time, a code of law governing this essential element of our legal system as it applies in the case of a wide range of immigration and asylum matters.

It would be useful for Senators if, before I get to the detail of the provisions in the section itself, I set out the legal context in which this proposal is brought forward. Some general points are worth making as a preliminary. Judicial review is the process whereby a person affected by a decision who considers that there was a procedural defect in arriving at it may ask the High Court to review that procedure. Judicial review is not an appeal against the substantive decision as such, and a successful application for judicial review, as well as quashing the decision reviewed, may result in the matter being referred back to the decision-maker. The court determining the review will not normally substitute its own decision on the substance for that of the decision-maker.

Judicial review historically owes its roots to the common law, but in Ireland has been given added backing by Article 34.3.1º of the Constitution. That article invests the High Court with "full original jurisdiction in and power to determine all matters and questions whether of law or fact, civil and criminal". Thus legislation which sought to exclude matters from the scope of judicial review would be probably struck down as inconsistent with that article.

Current procedures generally for judicial review are, as I have said, set out in Order 84 of the Rules of the Superior Courts, 1996. Some statutes provide exceptionally for particular variations on the procedure in particular types of case, and I will touch on these later. This order of the 1996 Rules of Court substantially implements the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in a working paper on judicial review – No. 8 1979 – a paper which characterised the system of judicial review remedies as having "two outstanding merits – comprehensiveness and effectiveness".

Judicial review proceedings are instituted by the making of an application to the High Court for leave to seek judicial review, ex parte, that is, without notice to the other interested parties, except in certain cases, and supported by a statement of grounds and by affidavits setting out the relevant facts. The applicant must satisfy the court in a prima facie manner of the following: that he or she has sufficient interest in the matter to which the application relates; that the facts averred in the supporting affidavits would, if true, be sufficient grounds for a stateable case for judicial review; that on the facts there is an arguable case in law for the relief sought; that the application is made promptly and within the time limit, which is normally three months, or the court is satisfied that there is good reason for an extension and that the relief sought is the only or most effective remedy available to the applicant on the basis of the facts averred. These criteria were identified by Chief Justice Finlay in the leading case of G v. DPP in 1994. While that was obviously a criminal case, the principles applying to judicial review apply across the board.

A decision to grant or refuse leave to seek judicial review is, it appears, appealable to the Supreme Court except where statute otherwise precludes it. As I mentioned, the normal time limit for applying for leave to seek judicial review is three months from the matter giving rise to the application. That period is six months in the case of an application for certiorari, an order overturning a decision granted in excess of jurisdiction. There is a discretion to extend the time further where the High Court is of the view that there is good reason.

Special time limits are provided for by statute in certain circumstances. Thus, for instance, legislation of 1963 dealing with planning approvals and permissions and 1993 roads legislation, covering motorway schemes and roads-related environmental impact assessments, provide that application for judicial review of a decision must be made within two months of the decision being made, with the possibility of an extension of time being granted. In the case of 1997 legislation dealing with the Irish Takeover Panel, there is a provision confining to seven days the time within which a rule made by the panel relating to a takeover may be judicially reviewed.

This is the general procedural background against which the proposal in section 5 falls to be considered. The proposal will provide in primary legislation a set of procedures for judicial review tailored to the specific needs of cases in the immigration and asylum areas of operation. The aim is to achieve a balanced situation where those who have a substantial case that proper procedures were not followed in an immigration or asylum matter will have a defined statutory framework within which to have that question determined by the High Court, while the normal processes will not be delayed by the institution of court proceedings by those who do not have a substantial case which would justify such delay.

Section 5 of the Bill achieves these aims by setting up a statutory procedure for judicial review of immigration and asylum matters with the fol lowing principal features. Section 5(1) lists the various types of processes to which the new procedures apply. Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) cover the steps in the deportation process set out in the Immigration Act, 1999, which can arise in relation to any person liable to be deported, be that person a failed asylum seeker or someone whose deportation is being considered on one of the many other grounds for deportation set out in the 1999 Act. Paragraph (d) covers the refusal of leave to enter the State under the provisions of the Aliens (Amendment) (No 2) Order, 1999. Paragraph (e) deals with exclusion orders made by the Minister in relation to notorious international war criminals or the like, and paragraphs (f) to (n) cover steps taken in the asylum process, including the consideration of applications under the Dublin Convention, whether under the present administrative processes or under the statutory arrangements about to come into effect with the commencement of the Refugee Act.

Paragraph 5(2)(a) addresses the time within which an application for judicial review must be made in these types of case. The limit specified is 14 days, which reflects the reality of the situation in immigration and asylum cases. The time limits in most cases between steps in the asylum and immigration processes are of short duration. This is necessary given the nature of these cases. Many of these limits are set in statute and must be adhered to. There would be little logic in setting longer limits for judicial review purposes where the decision must be executed or the next step carried out in a much shorter period. The paragraph provides that the period of 14 days can be extended where the High Court determines there is good and sufficient reason to do so. This compares with the general current provisions for judicial review in rules of court which require that an application for leave to seek judicial review must be made promptly and allows the High Court to extend the outside limits set in the rules.

Paragraph (b) provides that the Minister will be put on notice of applications for leave to seek judicial review in immigration and asylum cases. Unlike at present, the Minister will have the opportunity to be a party to proceedings from the very beginning and will thus have an opportunity as respondent to offer argument and facts at an early stage on the question of whether the application is based on substantial grounds. The High Court will have the power to refuse an application in those circumstances. This contrasts with the general position under the rules of court where an applicant for judicial review generally applies ex parte, that is without notice to the other side, and need only show there is an arguable case that the act which is the subject of the intended review was improperly carried out. While those with a substantial case to make will have full opportunity to make it, I am concerned to avoid a recurrence of the situation which has been experienced in a number of cases in recent years, where court proceedings have resulted in delays of over two years in circumstances where, had the court had the opportunity of hearing preliminary argument and facts from both sides instead of just one side, it could have decided early on that there was no substance in the case.

Section 5(3) provides that the determination of the High Court will be final in these cases and no appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court except on a point of law of exceptional public importance and that an appeal is desirable in the public interest. Thus, having heard the preliminary arguments and presentation of the facts, if the High Court decides that the judicial review application should proceed to a full hearing, the Minister will not be able to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court unless the High Court is satisfied there is an exceptionally important point of law involved. If there is an issue as to the constitutionality of a law, the possibility of an appeal to the Supreme Court cannot be excluded. This is catered for in Article 34.4.4º of the Constitution and in paragraph (b) of the subsection. Sections 5(4) and 5(5) are designed to ensure that the High Court will deal with these types of case as expeditiously as possible, consistent with the administration of justice.

Section 5 sets out a system which provides for a coherent, fair and expeditious means of dealing with judicial review applications in the asylum and immigration area. Delay in such cases can result in a situation where even though the court finds the Minister's actions in, for example, making a deportation order were proper and lawful, the execution of that order cannot take place because of a change in the circumstances occasioned by the delay. Nor should the High Court's valuable time be taken up with applications which can be disposed of at an early stage in the judicial process where the necessary procedures can be put in place to allow for this. These proposals will ensure that where all due procedures have resulted in a determination that there is no basis for a non-national's continued stay in the State, the judicial review process cannot be used to delay that person's departure if no substantial case can be made which would warrant a postponement.

The proposals contain safeguards to ensure that those with a substantial case to make have full opportunity to make it. It must be remembered that the judicial review process is not an appeal from the decision in question but is a means of testing whether the procedures leading to the decision were proper. My concern is to ensure that a person who no longer has good reason to remain in the State cannot prolong that stay by relying on the delays inherent in the institution of High Court proceedings, unless there is a reasonable case to be made for that prolongation. We must also remember that the experience of actual cases in these areas is that the decision to seek leave for judicial review usually arises only after all the normal procedures have been exhausted – procedures which, in the case of an asylum seeker, have involved State- funded legal aid and interpreter facilities at every step.

These proposals have been developed in consultation with the Attorney General. They are fair, constitutional, consistent with the principles of natural justice and in compliance with Ireland's international obligations in the human rights sphere. They offer a statutory guarantee to those in the immigration and asylum processes of the opportunity to have the courts review any step in those processes where there is a substantial basis for doing so.

I draw the attention of Senators to section 9 of the Bill which makes some amendments to the Refugee Act, 1996. Apart from the proposal in paragraph (a) of the section, which I have already discussed, these amendments are purely technical in nature, but nonetheless essential to the proper operation of that Act when fully commenced. It is my intention to proceed with commencement of the Refugee Act in full on the enactment of the Bill, and publication very shortly of the detailed secondary legislation necessary for the smooth operation of the Refugee Act. The selection process for the first Refugee Applications Commissioner is already complete. The competition for the appointment of a chairperson to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal is well under way under the aegis of the Civil Service Commission.

I commend this necessary legislation to the House. The Bill updates our laws in many ways for practical and pragmatic reasons to ensure that our procedures are streamlined. The Bill also takes account of modern society and will ensure reasonableness, fairness, openness and transparency throughout the process.

Fine Gael has no difficulty with the general thrust of the Bill. The unspeakable and evil trade in the trafficking of human beings, particularly refugees and asylum seekers, must be fought and wiped out at all costs. Fine Gael will support the Bill is so far as it attempts to do so.

However, in the Minister's most recent amendments to the Bill, particularly regarding asylum seekers' or refugees' rights to judicial review, which are different to those of any other category of person, he is in breach of the 1951 UN Convention on the Rights of Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Ireland is a contracting party to that agreement and the amendments may also contravene the Constitution. I will return to these issues later.

The appalling death at Dover of 58 people being transported in an airtight container clearly involves evil traffickers and has focused minds on the issue of the illegal trafficking in tragic and vulnerable people who are usually also penniless by the time they have finished with the traffickers. Of course, we can easily forget – and this Minister would obviously want us to overlook it – that states, including this one, have a share of the moral responsibility for these tragedies. We must always bear in mind, even if the Minister does not, that refugees and asylum seekers are forced into the clutches of these criminal traffickers by current law and practice in many European countries, including this one, because legal avenues of flight are being shut down, often in clear contravention of UN and other international conventions and instruments on protection of asylum seekers and refugees. In this and other states, desperate people are being forced to resort to these criminals to get around unjust laws.

This side of this House recognises that the principles of refugee protection are clear. A refugee or asylum seeker cannot and should not be penalised for the manner of their entry to or presence in the country where they are seeking asylum or refugee status. That is the cornerstone of the 1951 convention and is effectively part of the law of this land.

This country was held up to international odium last week by the Amnesty International Report 2000. Amnesty is recognised as the world's most objective, best informed and most respected NGO, monitoring and observing human rights practices in every country in the world. For the first time in the 40 years Amnesty has been monitoring human rights worldwide, Ireland came in for unfavourable notice in this year's report. In the paragraphs that deal with refugees and Ireland it states:

The Immigration Bill, 1999, was introduced in order to amend the 1996 Refugee Act which the Government claimed was unworkable and which had not been enacted in full, leaving gaps in the legal framework for refugee protection. Amnesty International was concerned about various parts of the Bill, including its failure to recognise the fundamental nature of the rights of non-refoulement. Amnesty International was also concerned about the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill which failed to make the distinction between professional traffickers and assisting genuine asylum seekers.

I listened to the Minister lecture Deputy Jim Higgins on non-refoulement. It was a great pity Deputy Higgins had not read that so he could respond to the Minister.

When people like me expressed similar criticism of the Immigration Bill, 1999, during its passage through this House, the Minister described us as bigots. I fully support Amnesty's comments on this Bill but I want the Minister to respond to its adverse comments on his legislation. I hope he will not show contempt by pretending to ignore the comments of Amnesty on this legislation which has proceeded solely and completely from the attitudes and mindset of the Minister.

In a newspaper article the Minister said the Dover tragedy could be repeated at an Irish port and he has offered that awful prospect as justification for some of the more draconian measures in this Bill, which have nothing to do with trafficking. What happened in Dover could happen here and we are right to do everything to prevent that, including the introduction of strong and adequate legislation to deal with traffickers and put them out of business. Equally, we must ensure that we do not make law which forces asylum seekers or refugees into the hands of these evil criminals. Unfortunately, the Immigration Act, 1999, and the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill before us today, along with some of the laws enacted in recent years in some other European countries, forces often desperate people into the clutches of these traffickers.

I welcome the Minister's expression of horror at the Dover tragedy. I ask him to join with me in an equal expression of horror that an incident at Brussels airport in September 1998 and to ensure it will never happen here. I refer to the case of Semira Adamu, a young woman from Niger who died tragically as a result of the methods used to enforce an expulsion order against her. Her case is not an isolated one. There were others – one at Zurich airport in March 1999, another on a flight from Vienna to Niger in May 1999 and a third on a flight from Frankfurt to Khartoum. These people died while they were being expelled from Switzerland, Austria, Germany and, in the case of Semira Adamu, Belgium. They died because of the heavy-handed measures used to expel them.

Does the Minister agree it is intolerable that this country would resort to such a degree of force in response to the often desperate attempts of asylum applicants and refugees not to be forced back to their country of origin where they might face persecution, starvation or worse? Violent refusal to board a plane is usually a sign of panic and distress rather than aggressiveness against the officer enforcing the expulsion order. All too often, persons being expelled are considered and treated as the wretched refuse of economic and political breakdown in their countries. They are looked on as far worse than criminals. The fact that so many of them commit suicide confirms the tragedy of their situation.

Given the Minister's hard-faced and mailed-fisted attitude on the asylum, refugee and migration issues, one wonders if he ever for a moment considers or feels for the tragedy that is the background of the majority of people who flee their country and home and become refugees, asylum seekers or economic migrants.

I am not being self-indulgent when I say I understand the plight of these people because I am sure every reasonable person in this country feels the same. I cannot escape this country's emigration history and experience. Irish emigration and the diaspora enriched many countries such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Argentina, to mention a few, but it was a tragedy and disaster for Ireland. Even the most cursory study of history shows that the main dynamic of human achievement was the migration of peoples. Last night in the Dáil, the Minister was in a sermonising mood and even preached on his definition of a responsorial psalm. He also gave a long sermon on the legal procedures in place which any asylum seeker or refugee can use to make their case for recognition in this country. I do not want the Minister to repeat them here because they are the minimum we are obliged to have in place under our international obligations.

Perhaps the Minister will explain in detail the exact procedures in place when a rejected asylum seeker is being expelled or is having an expulsion or deportation order enforced against him or her. Can he guarantee the procedures have enough safeguards to be humane? Can he state unequivocally that all enforcement officers are fully au fait with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which the Taoiseach has promised will be ratified in our domestic law in October, under the recently passed Human Rights Commission legislation? Article 3 of this convention clearly lays down that any rejected asylum seeker or illegal immigrant cannot be subjected to discrimination, racist verbal abuse, abuse of authority, dangerous detention methods or any physical abuse. Can he state unequivocally that there is sufficient protection to ensure that the procedures and actions which led to the tragedy of Semira Adamu in Brussels can never happen here? What procedures are followed when a person is placed on a plane to affect their expulsion?

For example, if a national airline takes an expelled person to London but he or she must take another flight to their home country, let us say Romania, where does the Minister's responsibility begin and end? Does he place the responsibility for the safety of the deportee on the flight captain? I am sure he is aware that under the Tokyo convention on air safety, any air commander or pilot may have any person or persons accompanying them disembarked if he or she considers that the presence of such a passenger or passengers could jeopardise discipline and order on the flight and that humanitarian considerations of immigration policy do not fall within the scope of any pilot's duties. It is clearly incumbent on every state which is party to the UN human rights conventions relating to the rights of asylum seekers that expulsions are never carried out in a legal vacuum or under legislation which does not expressly prohibit the use of force.

Let us return to all the assurances the Minister states are in place to protect and guarantee fair procedures to a person seeking asylum or refugee determination. For instance, where an applicant makes a case that he or she faces the threat of prosecution if they are returned to their country of origin, is it recognised that in many countries prosecution may not necessarily come from the state or its agencies but from other entities which have no links with the state? Is it recognised that war and violence are used as instruments of prosecution against many ethnic groups in many of the countries from which we receive so many refugees and asylum seekers, including some European countries?

Another question, which I put to the Minister during a previous debate but which he refused to answer, relates to safe countries of origin. Most countries receiving asylum seekers recognise a list of countries where there is a risk of persecution if people are returned to them, although the majority of countries are rightly recognised as posing no risk of persecution. Does the Minister recognise as a safe country of origin the Republic of the Congo, from which many people in this country facing deportation come? Does he recognise Algeria or Liberia as safe countries of origin? Would he regard returning Christians to certain parts of northern Nigeria or Roma people to certain parts of Romania or Bulgaria as safe practices? I hope the Minister will be able to answer those questions.

There is an irony about this. I read in the Library a couple of weeks ago the report of a debate in the other House in the 1950s on the refusal of eastern European communist regimes to allow people travel from their countries. There was a lot of declaiming on the issue. The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Frank Aiken, replied to the debate. He told the Dáil he had recently stood up at the General Assembly of the United Nations and addressed the Russian and eastern European delegations. Like Moses, he said to them, "Let your people go". Forty years later, the opportunity suddenly arose. When the Berlin Wall fell and all the changes took place in central and eastern Europe, people were free to travel. However, when they present themselves here, we slam the door shut in their faces. Most of the people who seek asylum or refugee status here come from central and eastern Europe, the former communist countries to whom we appealed 40 years ago, like Moses to the Pharaoh, to let them go.

That is the irony of the situation we face. It serves to illustrate our hypocrisy and our lack of sympathy and understanding for these people, which I have tried to outline. This country is in the worst possible position to adopt this kind of attitude to refugees, asylum seekers, economic migrants or whatever we choose to call them.

I welcome the Minister and the Bill, which I commend to the House. It is important to put on the record the huge volume of legislation the Minister has introduced to these Houses. During the life of this Government, which is three years young—

Not much longer to go.

—more legislation has been initiated by the Minister and his Department than in any time since the 1960s, and perhaps before that as my records and research did not go back any further than then. Tribute must be paid to the extensive work the Minister has done since he was appointed three years ago. That very important facet must be borne in mind.

My impression from reading newspapers, listening to speakers in these Houses and travelling around my own and neighbouring constituencies, including Tipperary South, is that there is a widespread revulsion and concern among ordinary citizens, not at genuine asylum seekers or refugees but at the significant amount of trafficking of innocent asylum seekers and refugees from north Africa, eastern Europe and so on. Critics of the Minister's vision and foresight in initiating this legislation in the Dáil some months ago have been completely answered by the unfortunate and tragic incident in Great Britain last weekend, with the devastating discovery of 58 dead people in a container in a ship in Dover. That is what the Minister envisaged might happen in this country. I hope it will never happen, but he had the foresight and vision to see it could occur in Rosslare, Cork, Galway, Drogheda or any of our other ports. Fortunately for this country, the ship in Dover was not destined for an Irish port. It must not be lost sight of that this is one of the main planks the Minister is trying to achieve in the Bill.

The Minister has said on at least six occasions in this House that he is concerned about the illegal trafficking of human beings from other parts of Europe and the rest of the world. The people involved in the horrific occurrence in Dover last weekend came from southern China. They were herded and treated worse than animals. They were brought in a train across Asia, Russia and eastern Europe to a port in Holland from which they were transported in terrible conditions. They had no air and suffocated in a container. According to the reports, they were screaming and scraping the doors with their fingernails, trying to get air. That signifies the essential thrust of the Bill and the importance of getting it passed urgently.

I read the report of the debate on this Bill in the Dáil, where the Minister was criticised for bringing this legislation forward piecemeal rather than in one Bill. His critics were answered by the unfortunate incident in a neighbouring state a few days ago. That point must be made.

There is no doubt that organised gangs involved in trafficking in eastern Europe, South America and north Africa take the life savings of innocent people. We read that the people who died in the tragic episode in Dover paid $14,000 each to a subversive and criminal organisation in China. They were treated like animals. Apparently, they were misled into thinking they would be flown to Ireland. It is obvious that many of those who died did not even know where Ireland is. This was to be their golden opportunity.

I am concerned that some of the vibes coming from this country welcome this type of development. We are giving the impression we are the land of a thousand welcomes, which we may be. However, we have limitations and laws, although we accept our responsibilities under the Geneva Convention. The impression is created in places such as China, North Africa and eastern Europe through remarks by some politicians, the media and some do-gooders which are carried on the Internet that Ireland is a soft touch. Organised trafficking to this and other countries is resulting in the deaths of people. I predict that something similar to that which happened in Dover could happen on a smaller scale at one of our ports, which would be devastating for the country and for asylum seekers.

Sometimes we cannot see the trees for the forest, but we must never forget that a proportion of those who come here are decent and proper asylum seekers and refugees who come within our laws and the European conventions and they must be respected. Sometimes their genuine case is lost in the plethora of cases of people who are here for reasons other than seeking asylum. I am convinced that at least 80% of people coming here from Romania have no genuine case for asylum or refugee status. I was in Romania on at least two or three occasions since the overthrow of Ceaucescu. It is a poor country which is emerging from the era of the Iron Curtain and the eastern European communist regime. Some might argue that Ceacescu's successor, Iliescu, may be just as severe, but during my visits I saw no obvious oppression of people in Romania in any major systematic way. The same could apply to Poland, but I have less knowledge of that country. In the next few years Romania will probably be a member of the EU – I predict this will occur before 2010. Romanians will then be free to travel within the EU and will enjoy the other benefits of EU membership.

In praise of the Minister's work, I welcome his trip to Bucharest some weeks ago when, in a very sensible and co-ordinated way, he met with his counterpart to seek the repatriation of those who do not come under the asylum category. Most applicants for asylum and refugee status in Ireland come from Romania, although I am not sure of the percentage. Under this agreement those who do not get asylum here can be repatriated in a humane way to their country of origin. I see nothing wrong with this, especially given that Romania and Poland will soon become part of the EU. I understand the Minister has plans to go to other countries such as Poland and Nigeria, which is a sensible way of dealing with the difficulties we are encountering.

I am puzzled and somewhat alarmed by the Minister's statement that 3,000 people have gone missing from the system. They have not pursued their applications for asylum beyond the initial step, have not gone through the appeals process and have left the social welfare system. Are these people still in the country? Have they vanished into thin air? Have they gone across the Border to Northern Ireland or Great Britain? It is a worrying feature and indicates the importance of fingerprinting, something I have previously urged in the House. There was a furore that fingerprinting was inhumane and unfair and that we were criminalising people in advance, but this is absolute rubbish. Fingerprinting is very simple and painless and if the 3,000 who have gone missing had been fingerprinted they could be traced and tracked down when required.

People make comparisons with the Irish who went to America. Members of my family went to the US in the 1950s and 1960s and at that time it was normal for emigrants to present themselves to the authorities and to be fingerprinted. Emigrants had to have medical records, accommodation organised and police records to prove they had no criminal background.

We are a nomadic people. The vast majority of Irish people who went abroad did so to work, as I did myself in my younger days. I am convinced that many of those coming to the country do not have that wish. People might say I am racist to say so, but that is not true. The country could do with many additional workers, but I have the feeling that—

They are not allowed to work.

—some of the people from China, North Africa or eastern Europe have been given the impression that this country is doing extremely well and has an excellent social welfare system. They are being led up the garden path and told lies about Ireland.

Those who died in Dover are the victims of trafficking and the object of the Bill is to curb the activities of traffickers. What about the Dutch lorry driver who arrived at Dover? He knew damned well that there were 50 or 60 people in the container without air. The police observed his manoeuvring, pulled him in and found 58 bodies in the container. Their deaths were appalling and unfortunate. The driver knew the people were in his container and he was in on the racket – he was probably a middle man.

How does the Senator know that?

Because he was arrested and I believe he ran from the scene.

So a person is guilty once arrested?

That is my suspicion and I am entitled to it. He is not in this jurisdiction and I am not in any way jeopardising his fair trial.

I welcome the provision whereby a lorry driver or a person piloting a ship or aeroplane who knowingly brings in people, and who is in many instances well paid for such racketeering, can have their lorry, ship, boat or aircraft confiscated and that the powers of the Garda are enhanced. The fact that a ten year jail sentence is being introduced might deter many traffickers.

The legislation may send a message to those trafficking in human beings, be it in China, South America or North Africa. The Minister said that 75% of those who come to the country illegally do not come through the normal ports of entry, such as the airports, which is very worrying. Some are being brought across the Border in taxis. We must put our foot down. At the end of the day it is important that the Minister has recognised in the Bill the case of the genuine person seeking asylum or refugee status who is fleeing persecution. Such people must get protection and be supported.

I hate to see Ireland being a facilitator for traffickers, be they of European, African or Asian origin. The human misery of trafficking is nothing short of the slave trade which occurred in Africa hundreds of years ago with which there are similarities and parallels. The snake heads in China have made millions of pounds from such racketeering, resulting in 58 bodies being found in Dover. I hope such a thing will not happen on our shores and I welcome the Minister's fast-tracking the Bill through both Houses. I also welcome his announcement that comprehensive legislation is coming down the track to replace the Aliens Act. I give my full support to the Bill.

I also welcome the Minister and wish to review some of what he said but before doing so I wish to refer to the contribution of Senator O'Donovan, elements of which were regrettable. It was a clichéd response in which there was reference to do-gooders. This is always an easy one – to describe opponents or people who are critical as do-gooders when one wants to take a populist line. Ireland, we are told, is a soft touch. That is also an emotive phrase, as is the new phrase of "a proportion of proper refugees and genuine asylum seekers". We then have the wonderful statistic dreamed up by the Senator that 80% of those who come here from Romania are bogus. There was no justification for this. It just happened to be a nice round figure that appealed to him on the spur of the moment. One needs to put properly established figures on the record of the House, not something that suddenly enters one's right ear in a moment of manic inspiration.

They are the Department's statistics.

The Senator did not quote them. Can he give a reference? Can he substantiate the figure of 80%, that it is a statistical fact?

The statistics relate to the number who have to be repatriated. I may be out by a couple of percentage points.

I very much doubt if it has any substance whatever.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator O'Donovan can continue on Committee Stage.

The Senator is inviting interruptions.

There is a wonderful lack of rationality about it. He blissfully went on to point out that Romania is in the process of trying to join the European Union. In a few years therefore the borders will be open. That being the case, why are we desperately engaging in this propaganda war against Romanian asylum seekers? I am very worried about this.

The Senator congratulated the Minister on going to Romania. I understand that arrangements have been made for Romanian and Nigerian police to come here. That really worries me. These are the people who may have been abusing the victims and are to be brought here to serve as judges in cases where they may well have been the miscreants. What kind of standing do the Romanian and Nigerian police have that the Minister should seek to place them on the same footing as the Garda Síochána?

With regard to fingerprinting, I am not the slightest bit happy because it places people at a secondary level and creates a kind of two stream society. One fingerprints criminals. Has any evidence been adduced to show there is a higher proportion of criminal activity among those applying for asylum or refugee status than among any other group of visitors? Why do we not fingerprint everybody, including tourists? A number of those who come here from England are perhaps criminal in their own way. Some of the gangs which come here which have been established as not being of Irish origin come here perfectly legally on European Union passports. Because they appear to be different they are treated as asylum seekers.

I worry a little about these issues and I am afraid that we may also have a tragedy like Dover. I share the concerns of Senator Connor in particular on the issue. He obviously received the same briefing as I did from Amnesty International in the aftermath of this tragedy in which 58 people died. While we condemn the trade in human beings, there is a moral as well as a legal responsibility. As a country we have to accept some of the responsibility. What are the conditions in these countries that are driving them out? Why should people want to leave their homes and the culture in which they have lived? Part of the motivation is that we are entering a kind of fortress Europe. Day by day we are closing down the legal avenues – the proper avenues – by which people can make application. They are literally being forced into the hands of the traffickers.

On a global scale we are colluding, as a member of the European Union, in the growing inequality between northern and southern economies. We are profiteering from this. The Minister's phrases can equally be applied to this country. He said that the traffickers have no concern for the good of anyone or anything except themselves and their wallets. Is that not the attitude that we as a country are taking to those who are financially disadvantaged?

There is a very interesting series of articles in The Irish Times today. The leading article looks at the question of trafficking in humanity and refers to one of the most worrying legal aspects of the Bill, that is, the restriction on the right to judicial review being placed on refugees and asylum seekers. It reads:

In the last few months, however, other provisions have been grafted onto the Bill by the Minister for Justice, Mr. O'Donoghue, and the legislation now curtails the access of asylum seekers to the Courts. This is an unfortunate development and blurs the distinction that should exist between asylum seekers and immigrant workers and those criminal gangs they pay to help them cross EU boundaries. In the same way, the recent Government decision to automatically finger-print asylum seekers creates a negative image of asylum seekers in the public mind.

The effect of one section of the Bill therefore is to place asylum seekers and refugees in the same category as the criminal gangs which are brought into play to try to get them into this country.

I wish to draw attention briefly to a letter which coincidentally appears on the same page from Mr. Piaras Mac Einri, director, Irish Centre for Migration Studies, National University of Ireland, Cork, in which he asks in a very eloquent way the questions I have just asked. Why should people in the first case seek to leave their own country and come to the island of Ireland? He writes:

People do not leave their homes and countries on a whim. One would not normally choose to travel in the back of a sealed lorry either. Nor can I imagine that people would choose, if more attractive alternatives were available, to go to places where they are likely to be reviled as criminals, "illegals" and spongers.

That is why, apart from anything else, we should be very concerned about the language we use in describing people who are seeking asylum in this country. He concludes as follows:

The criminal gangs are indeed evil, but they are a symptom, not a cause. Through our silence and acquiescence in the inequalities between north and south, we are parties to all of this misery. The alternative is to build north-south links and to work for a more equitable world. It will hurt and we will have to give up a lot of privileges, including that of asserting our exclusive right to a disproportionate share of the world's resources. A more open immigration policy and a more generous development policy would be a good start.

I referred to language. I am very glad that there is a certain human tone in the Minister's speech in which he refers to the welcome traditionally given by Irish people. I am one of those who made the point that in his normal run of speeches up to this there has simply been a hard-headed attack on the rights of asylum seekers. He talks about the status of Ireland as the Ireland of the welcomes but what kind of welcome did the Richardsons receive – the man who was stabbed and very nearly lost his life in Pearse Street? From where did that kind of negative energy come in the streets of our capital city to innocent people visiting their family? That is what worries me. There has been a growing attitude of antagonism fed by unwise words from political leaders of all kinds.

We are told that we are being targeted as a destination for illegal immigration. Again we have to ask why that is the case. Why is this happening? The Minister acknowledges the increase and states that it does not occur by accident. Asylum seekers, many of whom do not even know what their destination is, often tell of large sums of money paid to traffickers. I would like the Minister to give us a more detailed analysis and present some figures. This is anecdotal. There should be more substance to it. The Minister said it is known from intelligence sources that taxis and private vehicles are daily travelling from Northern Ireland and discharging their illegal passengers in Dublin. That may be so, but will he provide the House with specific cases? It would convince me if there were details, facts, figures, times, numbers and registration numbers. I presume convictions will arise following the passing of the Bill and I ask the Minster to return to the House after six months and provide us with a report, complete with details of the number of convictions.

The Minister indicated that there would an education programme. That is important. If a proper education programme had been in place perhaps the people who set upon the unfortunate Richardson family might not have done so because I am sure their actions were the result of a level of ignorance.

The Minister indicated that in section 5 he is making technical changes to the Refugee Act to facilitate the commencement of the Act in full. Will he provide detailed information about when the full implementation of the Act will occur? It appears to remain a hazy aspiration.

I welcome some aspects of the Bill. The Minister said it will criminalise the activities of traffickers, including traffickers in asylum seekers, but such criminalisation will not in any way affect the rights of the individual asylum seeker. That very important point was emphasised by the various agencies to whom I spoke in seeking briefing material. The Minster went on to say that in so far as the asylum seeker is concerned, the position concerning his or her admission to the State and the processing of his or her application remains unchanged. I welcome that.

I also welcome the provision in section 2(2) that the offence is committed only when the entry to the State of the illegal immigrant or asylum seeker is facilitated for gain. I read the Bill carefully to ensure this was the case. It is important that only those involved in a commercial transaction should be subject to this kind of criminal provision. There may well be circumstances where an organisation, individual or group may seek to assist somebody whose initial entry to the country is not fully covered by the law. This is especially relevant when considering cases from places like the land of my birth, which has already been referred to – the so-called Democratic Republic of the Congo, where people are endangered if they are returned. It would be honourable for organisations, groups and individuals to try to assist people in such circumstances.

Is there a list of unsafe countries? Senator O'Donovan referred to the slave trade in Africa centuries ago. It was not centuries ago. It is happening in Sudan today, yet apparently we are prepared to return people to that jurisdiction. I handled a case where a well qualified person from Sudan had extreme difficulty in getting asylum status, even though the person's family had been embroiled in politics to such an extent that there is no doubt that he would be murdered if sent back. I therefore welcome the Minister's assurance that those who act for humanitarian purposes or because of family links do not commit an offence under the Bill. It is important that we extend a net to catch the profiteer rather than direct the energies of the State against people who are fleeing from an impossible situation.

Certain criteria regarding judicial review, identified by the former Chief Justice Finlay in the case of G v. the DPP, are laid down. I have no difficulty with that, but I regret the restriction placed on asylum seekers in terms of the entitlement to seek a judicial review. The Minister said it is his intention to proceed with the commencement of the Refugee Act in full on the enactment of the Bill and that he would shortly publish the detailed secondary legislation necessary for the smooth operation of that Act. I assume that means it will be published during this calendar year.

I give the Bill a very qualified welcome. We need to be careful. For example, Senator Connor referred to the case that occurred in Belgium some years ago where a woman was killed by Belgian officials during the process of deportation. She had been very distressed and became hysterical and was sat on by officers until she smothered to death. I do not believe we want to see that in this country.

Senator O'Donovan said the Dutch lorry driver involved in the Dover case is guilty. It is dangerous to assume that. He may be, but we do not know. We must wait until the case is over. On one of the morning programmes on the wireless yesterday or the day before, a Dutch truck driver who is resident in Ireland and works for an Irish company gave his story about how, when travelling through Dover and driving along a motorway in England, he heard banging from inside the truck container. He thought the load had shifted and looked in his mirror as a precaution and saw hands waving. He was afraid to stop in case the people concerned would escape or attack him. He contacted the police authorities on his mobile phone and they created a reception area into which he drove. The people were removed by the police. That man was terrified he would be charged with being complicit in what had happened, even though he was not. He had no knowledge of the people involved but he managed to alert the police. What would have happened if he had not been aware of the presence of people in his truck until he arrived at a port or destination where he would have been investigated by the police? Some lorry drivers may be guilty, but not all. It is dangerous to assume guilt on the part of any individual before they have been given due process.

I compliment the Minister on introducing this legislation. He is one of the hardest working Ministers and has introduced an unbelievable amount of legislation to the House since he took up office. He had to do it because the previous Government failed to implement the necessary legislation. The Opposition when in Government introduced the Immigration Bill in 1996, yet a year later it had failed to enact any part of that legislation.

The Senator is confusing the Immigration Bill with the Refugee Act. He should get his legislation right.

Senator Kiely without interruption.

The Senator cannot be allowed make misleading comments.

The previous Government left the issue to fall into the Minister's lap. When it was in office it had designated 13 people to look after thousands of illegal immigrants, which resulted in queues on the streets, yet when it returned to Opposition it started to point the finger at the Government, accusing it of failure to act.

This Minister has introduced 26 Bills and more are on the way. He is to be commended for the amount of work he has done and is doing on all aspects of this issue, whether it be child trafficking, drug trafficking or human trafficking, which is very serious.

People seek to make a song and a dance about deportations and fingerprinting. Those of our own people who do not meet the immigration criteria for entry to the US are deported back to this country. They arrive at Shannon Airport and Dublin Airport. Anybody who wants to get a green card for the United States must be fingerprinted in the American Embassy before he or she leaves Ireland. That is the current procedure, not that which operated 25, 30 or 50 years ago when it was also the practice.

The Minister likes that kind of law.

I am delighted that in the poll 75% of people came out in favour of fingerprinting. No matter what measure one tries to enact in Ireland, 25% of the people will oppose it. My interpretation, therefore, is that 100% of the people surveyed were actually in agreement with fingerprinting.

A riveting grasp of statistics.

Another criticism of the Minister – I will not speak about him further because I will let the public do that – was that he lacked sympathy. When there was a crisis in Kosovo, he was the one who put out his hand across the water and brought those people to County Kerry first, and the people of Kerry welcomed them with open arms. Yet it is said that he lacks sympathy. When he saw a crisis, a genuine refugee crisis, he acknowledged it.

With regard to asylum seekers, illegal immigrants or whatever one wants to them, there are definitely different categories. It is like lies, damn lies and statistics. There are the rogue traffickers and there are genuine asylum seekers, and the Minister's heart lies with the genuine asylum seekers. He wants to make sure that the genuine applicant will get a fair crack of the whip and will be documented and processed properly, and that is what the Bill is all about.

I welcome the Bill. There is a huge amount contained in it, but many parts of it are too soft. I would certainly go a great deal further.

Senator Norris referred to the number of Romanians coming here and asked why the Minister would not let them in now because Romania will join the EU in a couple of years. I welcome the process by which other countries are trying to join the EU, and I welcome all of these people. However, when they become citizens of the EU and enjoy freedom of movement within the EU, they will not need to come here to be housed or to get social welfare. They will come here, apply for a job and get accommodation like any other person travelling in any part of Europe.

I have travelled to many parts of the world. I and my family and friends had to seek out jobs and accommodation and we did not have our hands out to the state.

They would work if they could get visas.

All of a sudden people are saying that the Minister should open his arms and let them all in. They say that we will look after them and if they are not happy with the type of accommodation, we will get them better, more luxurious accommodation. For years I lived in an apartment in the United States, five floors up with people all around me. I lived in the semi-jungle of the Bronx in New York and I was happy for a number of years.

I bet he was an illegal immigrant.

Was he deported?

I was happy to be in that country, to have a job and to be recognised as a citizen of that country. I was fingerprinted and documented, and I had to swear allegiance to that country. I had to put my name down for its armed forces and so did everybody else. We fought for that country.

He would have gone to Vietnam.

These people must be fair.

On the subject of trafficking, I want to refer to the 58 unfortunate people who died in that tragic incident at Dover. The man who put those people into that container received £580,000 for doing so. What are we going to do? Are we going to tell these people to put another 58 people in a container tomorrow and the following day and let him make another £2 million or £5 million? Will we let such people send them across Europe with a death sentence?

The Minister is too soft in proposing that traffickers should have to forfeit their container, etc. If I was in the Minister's position, I know exactly what I would do with them. I would confiscate their boats, planes and homes as he did with the drug traffickers when he made a job of it. I would go a small step further with anybody who was engaged in the trafficking of people, which is a dreadful practice.

Anybody with an ounce of humanity would have to put an hand out and help these people who are being humiliated in their countries.

That is what we are asking to be done.

In fact, I would go further. It has been brought to my notice that in Nigeria there is somebody running advertisements promising passage to a European country of choice on receipt of £18,000. The advertisement also promises free accommodation and if the person does not like it, he or she will be provided with accommodation in a better hotel. It promises food and £100 spending money per week.

It would be worth £18,000.

That is a big issue. Do such people think this is a proper way to treat human beings?

This reminds me of a recent statement by the Irish bishops. The Minister took them up on it and rightly so. They said that we must put our hand out to these people and help them. We are helping them. In my county there are about 350 such people. They are welcome, but there should be 350 people in all the counties. We should all put out the hand of friendship to these people who are genuine cases who need to be looked after, the people who are being ill-treated and are under threat in their own countries.

What about Deputy Healy-Rae?

I am delighted the Minister went to the UK the other day and that he went to France and Romania. I hope he goes to Nigeria and I hope that they all get together and put in place proper provisions, whether this involves fingerprinting or the taking of photographs.

I do not understand the outrage about fingerprinting. It is normal to have a photograph on a passport, for instance. One cannot get on an plane now without some form of identification. We must know who people are, although, of course, people give false names.

Another matter to which Senator O'Donovan referred and about which I was amazed is that 3,000 of them are missing. They have disappeared into thin air. To where did these 3,000 unfortunate asylum seekers disappear? Were they not happy with the accommodation we were providing for them? Was it that they were not happy with the food or the money we were giving them?

They went on holidays to Kerry.


They would be more than welcome. Our hand of friendship is offered to these people.

Acting Chairman

Tá do chuid ama caite.

They must be helped out and we are the people who are helping them out. Anybody who accuses—

Acting Chairman

Senator, your time is up.

My time could not be up.

Acting Chairman

It is.

I am only getting started.

Acting Chairman

Your time is up. You started at 11.38 a.m.

The Senator should not challenge the Chair.

The Minister has a soft heart. I will be taking up many of the points with him. He should introduce tougher legislation to deal with the people who are making huge sums of money on the lives of these unfortunate people. Such people should be ashamed of themselves. There is only one place for them. If there was a death row in Ireland, that would be the place for them. Considering 58 unfortunate people lost their lives the other day, I would not spare these traffickers. I would take everything they had.

Acting Chairman

I call Senator Quinn.

I am delighted that proper legislation has been introduced to try to put manners on these people because it is high time it was done. The people of Ireland will compliment the Minister for doing so.

I welcome the Minister to the House and welcome the Bill. I found this morning's debate most enlightening. There have been spontaneous comments from so many Senators who have much more experience than I in this area. Listening to Senator Dan Kiely, it was interesting to hear from a returned refugee.

In the form of a Kerry joke.

I do not mean returned from Kerry but from elsewhere.

When so many from one family had to emigrate, it was not a joke.

Acting Chairman

It is a too serious a subject to make a joke of it.

I welcome the Bill or perhaps I should say that I welcome that part of it which is covered by the scope of its Short Title. I do not consider it appropriate to tie into the Bill, which is about trafficking in illegal immigrants as the Minister stated, amendments to the Refugee Act, 1996, because that is a totally different subject altogether. It is almost mischievous to confuse the two and address them in one Bill. The tragedy in Dover draws to our attention the seriousness of the situation. However, it should not blind us to the fact that such misfortunes occur regularly throughout the world, not just in Britain and Ireland.

Traffickers in immigration are exploiting a worldwide need created by an imbalance between wealthy and poorer nations. There is no comparison between the two and, to a person in one of those poverty-stricken nations, the prospect of escaping to a better life in the richer part of the world is too tempting and almost impossible to resist. They readily believe the most unrealistic promises made to them. They are willing to undertake journeys such as that which ended in Dover and to risk death. Senator Dan Kiely spoke of what is happening in Nigeria. I was not aware of that situation.

While no words could describe the contempt we feel for traffickers who exploit that need and demand and the aspirations of those people, we should be realistic about the conditions which permit that trafficking to thrive and which almost foster it. Trafficking in illegal immigrants takes place because rich countries are effectively closed off to people from poorer countries. This is largely true of Canada, the United States and Australia, it is almost totally true of Europe and is, without reservation, true of Ireland.

As far as someone from a poor country is concerned, the term "illegal immigrant" in Ireland is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. There is no process of legal immigration. When one speaks of "illegal immigration", one means immigration, because we do not have legal immigration, with the exception of the limited work permits scheme, which is restricted to a narrow range of people who have the particular skills we want. For a person without those skills, which means almost everyone, Ireland presents a closed door to their face. It does not have a system of legal immigration. We do not offer even a small number of them the opportunity to share in or add to our wealth as immigrants often do when they come to a new country. For those people, the only possible way to come through the door we close against them is to do it illegally because we do not have a legal system. In an important sense, our attitude and policy are a charter for the traffickers who exploit immigration.

I do not argue against cracking down on traffickers as it is an important part of immigration policy – we are all agreed on that. I oppose its being the whole policy, which it effectively is, and the Bill shows that it is. Neither do I suggest that Ireland or the developed world would ever be able to accommodate everyone who wishes to come here. There will always be an imbalance between those who want to come and those we can accommodate. It will always involve the country to which refugees and immigrants seek to come having to make some tough, hard, arbitrary choices. There will always remain some scope for illegal trafficking and there will always be some residual demand which traffickers will seek to exploit. However, when the policies have the effect of channelling the entire level of demand for migration through the illegal route, perhaps the time has come to question that strategy.

I have argued in the House for a more generous policy on immigration which would be justified purely on economic grounds. Even if we could hold back our economic growth to half its current level, we would still have a demand for jobs which would exceed the number of people ready and able to meet it. The gap is not just a skills but also a labour gap. The shortage of people to fill jobs is likely to have the most dramatic effect at the lower rather than the higher end of the scale. That has not been said often enough nor is it understood. In purely economic terms, we have a demand for more people. There is a ready supply of such people who, as we have seen, are prepared to spend all their resources and risk their lives to come knocking on the doors of the western world. Despite that, we in Ireland do all in our power to keep that door shut in their faces and leave all humanitarian and moral considerations out of the discussion. This approach does not make economic sense. I refer specifically to the economic wisdom of what we are doing and leave aside the ethics and morality of it. When we take into consideration the humanitarian and moral considerations, the case for doing things a different way becomes unanswerable. We must find another way.

I do not say the legislation should not be part of that different way, but I cannot help feeling that there is a certain sense of unreality about it, that we are not living in the real world. What makes Ireland an attractive destination for traffickers to bring people to? By all accounts, it is the length of time it takes for an application for asylum to be resolved. That is in our hands. The time taken keeps lengthening because the level of applications and applicants keeps exceeding the increase in resources allocated to deal with the problem. Ireland is becoming more attractive as a destination as the waiting time increases, and that is what has been happening for the past few years because we have not handled the problem.

While that is the reality, it is not an inevitable reality. We could easily break this logjam by means of an amnesty for those already here, and that was suggested by the bishops some months ago. While we could do that, the suggestion was rejected out of hand by the Minister, and I can understand why. He said an amnesty would encourage more people to come here. However, it would have the reverse effect if it were accompanied by a strong signal that any future applicants would be dealt with quickly. There should be an amnesty for those already here but it should be accompanied by a serious decision, announcement and determination to ensure we deal quickly with future applicants. It is the growing time lag in resolving applications which continues to make Ireland an attractive place for asylum seekers, yet all that has been achieved by the best efforts of the Minister and his Department is a lengthening of the queue. Is there no one in this labyrinth of a Department who has the courage to say that it is madness, that it is not working and that it will not work?

We need a policy for immigration. What we have is a policy for stopping immigration. Apart from being ineffective, the approach is both economically and morally indefensible. We should not pass the Bill without sending at the same time a clear message to the Government that this policy is no longer enough. We have an opportunity to do something about it now. We must find a solution and that solution is in our hands in this Bill. Time should not pass without doing something about it.

I welcome the Minister to the House and I welcome the legislation. The Minister has been very specific in dealing with legislation covering many national issues within his remit. The Bill is part of an overall policy to deal with immigrants and it deals with a specific issue which faces the country and with which we must deal in a proper, civilised and legal manner. As Irish citizens and parliamentarians we should deal with our fellow man in a fair and equal manner. As members of the EU we have a national responsibility to deal with this matter. Ireland is one of a large number of countries which have great numbers of immigrants arriving on a regular basis. For the first three months of this year we have had something in the region of 3,600 immigrants. Countries as large as the UK have something in the region of 18,600 immigrants. This is something which Europe is being faced with, particularly the EU.

I accept the premise and purpose of the Bill. It is necessary to have a structure in place to deal with the developments which are emerging. I welcome the Government's interest in setting out structures which are common to other European countries in dealing with immigrants in a fair and reasonable manner. We are wealthy countries and offer good opportunities. We are entitled to carry some of the responsibility regarding immigration from many African and eastern countries which are coming through difficult transitional periods.

It is important and fair that the Bill protects the interests of people who come here on humanitarian grounds and organisations involved in bringing people to this country. Members of the Opposition who have contributed to the debate, including Senator Norris, have recognised the balance of the Bill, particularly with regard to some of the conditions written under the different articles for the protection of genuine, innocent immigrants who come here of their own free will and in great need due to strife and difficulties in their own countries.

We have our own emigrants who become immigrants in other countries. Statistics have shown that more than 80 Irish people have sought asylum in Sweden in the first three months of this year. This is an indication that we contribute to those seeking asylum in other countries and it is important that this is realised. These people are looking for a better life; perhaps some are from the North. We have an obligation to deal with this matter. I recognise the need to have structures in place and to have an organised approach in dealing with immigration.

I have had recent meetings with asylum seekers and a way should be found to allow genuine people to contribute to our economy. These people feel they can work and make a positive contribution to the State. I understand that accommodation is being paid for by the taxpayer through the Government but some people are tied within the area they live. Some of these people could make a personal contribution but there are restrictions on them. There must be an improvement in the humanitarian approach by allowing people a little freedom within the area where they live. There should be flexibility in dealing with those who want to participate and make genuine contributions to our economy. The period of assessment and examination is extremely long. I understand the purpose of the Bill and the changes with regard to the structures of judicial review. It is important that applications are dealt with efficiently, effectively and that final conclusions are reached.

The provisions being put in place for dealing with traffickers in people are not excessive – they are reasonable and understandable and I hope they will deal effectively with them. One can see from the Internet the growth in this business. Where there is money to be made people will take advantage of it. Governments and states must seek to provide structures and laws to deal with these issues.

I understand the Minister's considerations with regard to changing the Immigration Act under this Bill and something must be done about the number of people who have not dealt with the State institutions, the Garda or the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is important this matter is dealt with effectively but the Bill will be of benefit in that regard. It will help the Government consider justifiable ways, perhaps in a European and an Irish State context, to take a different approach in dealing with people's long-term needs. Until such time as we deal with the logjam of people we will be unable to make necessary changes to deal with the occupational needs of our State.

I appreciate the Minister is extremely humane. Human rights should be a central plank to our legislation and I respect the Minister's view that we must act in a proper and balanced manner. I support the Bill, the contents of which are generally fair.

I, too, welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for his comprehensive presentation in introducing this legislation. I speak as somone in a constituency with the greatest number of asylum seekers and refugees. About one fifth to one quarter of asylum seekers are accommodated in Dublin central. If there are 20,000 plus asylum seekers there are between 4,000 and 5,000 asylum seekers in that area. There are a couple of hundred refugees in various other parts of the country, including major urban areas from Galway to Cork and Wexford – this does not reflect the figures from the Minister's Department – but we know where a disproportionate number of asylum seekers are located. This gives rise to problems which are not being addressed.

Many Members spoke about the terrible tragedy in Dover where 58 people suffocated in a truck travelling from Zeebrugge. The people responsible should be prosecuted. Every effort should be made to find them. If traffickers were involved in that tragedy they should be dealt with severely.

A tourist from England was almost killed here because of his colour. He was not an asylum seeker. The racist language used during that attack is a very worrying trend in our society. There was a very serious outbreak of violence when a shop in Parnell Street was attacked a few weeks ago. Many parts of my constituency are sprayed with graffiti which is openly racist. These issues are the manifestation of the problem.

The bishops, Amnesty International, the Irish Refugee Council and other organisations which represent asylum seekers are very critical of the measures being introduced by the Minister. They feel he is using a very heavy hand in dealing with the problem and that in many cases he misses the point. It is almost like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, the Minister is missing the core of the problem. The Minister's record on this issue and others is not good. Yesterday we discussed the Offences Against the State Act, 1998, which introduced very tough and, as described by the Taoiseach, draconian measures in the aftermath of Omagh. Very little return has been elicited from the very heavy measures introduced regarding the right to silence, the period of detention and inferences that might be taken. No prosecutions have been made even though the Act has been in operation for two years. We must ensure that legislation hits the target, otherwise we are enacting dangerous legislation, particularly if it is tough and draconian.

The Bill seeks to prohibit trafficking in illegal immigrants. That is a very desirable objective but, as Senator Quinn said, we are tagging on amendments to the Refugee Act, 1996, and providing for a number of other related matters. The thrust of the Bill is penalising and attacks traffickers and asylum seekers. It is not clear whether section 2, which deals with people who organise or help others to enter the country, relates to those who do so with good intent or those who do so clearly for gain. The distinction is not clear enough to meet our international duties under the Geneva Convention, 1951. Section 4 deals with the detention of vehicles, ships and aircraft. A person may not question the validity of their refusal, exclusion, determination or decision except by way of judicial review. The Bill also changes the normal period of time in which application may be made for a judicial review from three months to two weeks. There is a different law for the asylum seeker and the Irish citizen.

Section 7 grants powers to a sergeant – it is a superintendent in the Offences Against the State Act, 1998 – to search a person or place and seize goods. It is an offence to obstruct the Garda in doing so. Any member of the Garda may arrest without warrant anybody he or she suspects of being in breach of a deportation order. It appears as though the Minister is directing all his ammunition in one direction and not paying attention to other areas.

Our history in terms of emigration goes back 150 years. Many of our citizens have worked illegally in other countries. I was amused to hear Senator Kiely's diatribe, given the magnificent role he has played in Kerry in trying to rehabilitate illegal Irish emigrants in the United States. Rumour had it he had commissioned an Aer Lingus aircraft to bring 15,000 to 20,000 Morrison visas to people living illegally in the United States. While Senator Kiely supported economic refugees and asylum seekers around Kerry, he does not appear to have a good word to say about them when they are coming into this country. He was a wonderful defender and supporter of those leaving the country.

We must look at the current situation. When Mayo played New York in a Gaelic game here last year, seven of the 15 players from the New York team had great difficulty getting home because they did not have proper papers. They were illegal economic immigrants. The GAA had to plead long and hard for New York to participate in the football championship this year. Many of our people are living abroad as illegal economic immigrants. We must be very careful about what we say and do.

The Minister misses the point on a number of occasions. This legislation does not deal with traffickers. Traffickers are international operators. We need international policing of the problem. We will not find these traffickers in Ireland. They will be found in Asia, Central Europe and Africa. How can this legislation deal with them? It will not. It is meaningless because traffickers will not be found in this jurisdiction. This is a bit like our drugs legislation though at least most of the drug barons were living in Ireland when the legislation was introduced – most of them now live outside Ireland. The only way we can deal with them now is by way of international policing. Only one line of this Bill which states, "European Union legislation will prescribe a common approach to the criminalisation of trafficking in human beings" refers to international policing. This matter was discussed at the European summit in Portugal last weekend. That is not an indication of any great alacrity. We must focus on international policing of traffickers if we are to deal with the problem. Most of what I fear about this legislation is what is appended to it, the amendments to the 1996 Act and the other provisions which dilute the rights of people who come to this country.

The Minister should look again at Government policy. What is the real issue? The real issue is that people do not come to this country because of persecution in their homeland. The reality is that we have no framework in place to process economic migrants or immigrants. Such people have no choice but to couch their application in other terms but we all know they are economic immigrants. They are here because of poverty in their own countries and because they want a better life, just as happened in the 150 years of the Irish diaspora up to the last decade. It is high time we looked at the problem in those terms. We have looked at the issue in terms of our capacity to deal with it – we have an enormous capacity to deal with it given the needs of the workforce. As Senator Quinn said, the booming economy needs those at the bottom of the scale more than high fliers, as we can train the former. They are willing to work and are looking for the right to do so. I agree with the suggestion of an amnesty for those immigrants who have been here for a year, for example. They could be given the right to work, education and training and could fit into Irish society effectively and efficiently. Those people could make a considerable contribution to society.

We must put a framework in place to deal with economic migration in the future. That is the nub of the issue. We must also deal with those who come in and give a guarantee that people will be dealt with in six months. That would get rid of the backlog as well as the deportation problem which the Minister knows he cannot deal with. He knows he is making a mess of deportation. There is no deportation policy afoot and that area is not functioning. The sooner the Minister recognises this the better. He knows that the people who have been refused for one reason or other are economic migrants. He must treat them as such and provide them with the necessary resources.

If we are to deal with this matter in the context of a pluralist society we must provide the funding and structures to do so. We need an education programme in schools and an awareness programme in the workplace and the community. We need those programmes no matter what is done to improve the lot of those immigrants already in Ireland. We need to present ours as a welcoming society that will take in newcomers and that will look on them as equal human beings, as there is an incipient racism abroad. This racism is often fuelled by people who issue statements – a Deputy in the Minister's constituency has spoken of his area being flooded by 80,000 refugees and has created fears that his area will be swamped. Those remarks were foolish and dangerous. Someone making such remarks should be criticised strongly by the Minister for doing so. Under no circumstances should such a person be allowed to influence legislation like this.

I am not overjoyed by this legislation as it will be totally ineffective in what it seeks to do with trafficking. The Minister should direct his attention to economic immigrants.

I welcome the Minister and offer a qualified welcome to the Bill as a necessary retuning of the laws. I recognise the Minister as a hardworking Minister, but I sometimes wish that Ministers for Justice were not quite so hardworking when it comes to legislation. I know the Minister will not take this personally – this also applies to Home Secretaries. They tend to operate in the short term and reactively. The Minister will gather from Senators' contributions that a much broader context is needed here and that we should examine how people enter this country, how to prepare them to live here and how we prepare our people for that. I share that view.

I welcome the Bill to the extent that it deals with the evil of trafficking. I too deplore the appalling tragedy in Dover and the trafficking that led to it. People are making money out of this practice and it should be stamped out internationally. The incident in Dover seems to be a bonus for some broadsheet writers in Britain who see it as justification for draconian measures taken in the past and for more of the same. Like Senator Quinn, I draw another conclusion from the Dover episode and the trafficking behind it. It is the product of circumstances Governments have created for themselves and is a bit like prohibition in America. That is what produced the Mafia and other gangs in America.

Hear, hear. It is the same thing.

That was removed to a degree when prohibition was removed. To concentrate on raising the wall all the time will have the effect of increasing the price people are prepared to pay to get over the wall. We need to be careful about this.

I took some small exception to the Minister's reference to taxis and private vehicles daily travelling from Northern Ireland and discharging their illegal passengers in Dublin. I hope that does not mean that some of my neighbours who look oriental, Slavic or black will be hauled out of their cars at the Border, as I have seen happen. There are people in the North who would be sniffy about this and say that people were not always so worried in the past 30 years when the traffic was going in the other direction.

I commend the remarks of Senators Quinn and Chambers and I hope this issue will be put in context, though I am worried about the context in which it is emerging. I commend the Minister on the measured language he used in presenting the Bill, but other comments made during the debate were quite disturbing, even more so if they reflect incipient or nascent racism in society at large. I encourage the Minister to revisit the issue of dealing with those people who are already here, as Senator Quinn said. There is an enormous social problem in this area that needs decisive and courageous action from the Minister to cut the Gordian knot, otherwise I fear the Minister's Department will be overwhelmed by pushing this great stone up the hill to find it rolls down again. Much of the benefit proposed by the speeding up of processes in the Act might well be lost in that way. It is not so long since I was bombarded and lobbied – though that is not an acceptable word – about the problems of illegal Irish emigrants in America by people who have already contributed. It seems that we want it both ways, we want our illegals made legal, while we want to keep other people illegal.

Senator Quinn and I raised in a previous debate the absolute economic imperative of open borders, or as open as possible. We need to have a means where people can come and work in this country and where we can use their skills and labour. We should be grabbing these people because if we do not, the economy will suffer grievously in the years ahead. By and large, these people are coming from difficult areas and the majority are extremely hard working people who are prepared to work in jobs, which Irish people are no longer prepared to take, over long and unsociable hours, particularly in the catering trade and others that are vital to the tourism industry. There is a tradition of attachment to education and they push their children on. I have no doubt they have the capacity to make an enormous contribution to this country if we prepare ourselves to receive them and are open.

I sympathise with the Minister's problems. I welcome the efforts he is making in the Bill to deal with them in the short term but I hope it is not, in any sense, a substitute for all of us taking a broad look at immigration, the economic and social aspects of it and how it can be helped.

I welcome the Minister but I am not sure I can give a warm welcome to the Bill. Like other Senators, I believe it only addresses a symptom of the problems we have. I understand the concern everyone has about dealing with those who are profiting from this grim human trade but this trade has been going on for a very long time and countries far more powerful than this have tried to deal with the cartels involved and have not been in a position to stop it. I cannot help but think that this legislation is for our benefit rather than that of those who may be trafficked. This is the most unfortunate point about it.

As other Senators have said, most people who come to the country are economic refugees and, as has been pointed out, there seems to be a very large market for many of them once they get here. For example, I cannot be the only one who has said "Good morning" to people working in the construction industry, only to be told they speak no English. However, they seem to be getting on particularly well in the job and I am sure the builders employing them have got all the required work permits for them.

There is a policy, without even looking at the credentials of people who come here, of immediately getting rid of them. I strongly support what Senator Quinn said about our lack of immigration policy and about looking at those who are here already. For example, I have met nurses who are refugees from eastern Europe. I do not know if anyone has tried to employ them but perhaps with a little upgrading of their skills and a little more knowledge of our pharmacopoeia, they could be usefully employed. I have met these people working in the construction trade and I know they are, as Senator Hayes has said, working in the catering industry, although I was sorry when I discovered that even now one of them was being paid £3 an hour. I feel very bad that people are being taken advantage of by those seeking to pay them amounts below the minimum wage.

We have asylum seekers as well and they are being put in the same boat as the economic refugees. I have been in countries from which people have been seeking asylum. It is impossible for them to get out of these places without the assistance of others. They may be under threat of death wherever they are. Lumping refugees and asylum seekers together has been most unfortunate. Of course they will not have papers and will have forged papers because if they are caught with the right papers on them, their lives would perhaps be finished. There are doctors here from countries which I will not mention. The Irish Medical Council asks them for their papers but they cannot even send someone to the equivalent medical council in the country from which they have come because that person would be at risk for seeking those papers. Putting asylum seekers and refugees together is most unfortunate, but apparently that is what the Minister has decided to do.

Other countries have tried to deal with these traffickers in human flesh. Since the end of the last war, the trafficking in women and children from eastern Europe to western Europe has been well documented. Some were promised employment in the hotel business, night clubs and so forth, but a large number have ended up in prostitution. Whatever papers they may have had were taken from them. If they feel they are at the mercy of the authorities in the country to which they have come, how can they possibly make their presence and their terrible difficulties known?

I do not know the number of women and children brought into this country but a young woman from the Far East, who was working as a prostitute in London and who came over here, was murdered. As far as I know, little progress has been made on that murder. How many other girls in similar circumstances are coming to this country? We are making such little effort to do anything about the exploitation of women and children and, I suppose, young men in those circumstances that one could be forgiven for thinking the Government has no policy in this area.

Recently I asked the Minister of State, Deputy Wallace, if we could classify pornographic films made before 1994 because, as one knows, they are widely available in sex shops. Videos, I gather, sell for about £50 each and, I presume, are rented for less. If one looks at any of these videos – one could not look at them for very long, one would need to use the fast forward button – there are people of Far Eastern and African nationalities in some of them while, in others, the participants appear to be very young. Surely by not doing everything we can to deal with this trade, we are encouraging it. Again, we know those who are brought from abroad can be very useful to those who make these films.

The trade used to be from eastern Europe and the Far East to western Europe. I gather there is now a considerable trade from Africa. If one is in France or Italy, in particular, and sees the number of black girls waiting in lay-bys along motorways and other such places, one can just imagine the difficulties they face. They are thousands of miles from their own country probably having been exported by their families because in some areas the cultural significance of women is not the same as in Europe. With the type of legislation we are bringing forward, they are far less likely to come forward to the authorities than if we did not have such legislation.

In many cases, we have not even tried to devise a policy of interviewing women asylum seekers or refugees as individuals, especially if they do not speak English. They are looked on as an appendage of whatever males they are with. It is important to remember that those they may be with may be exploiting them. I ask the Minister to try to ensure that interviews with women are done separately unless they specifically request that they are not to be parted from whoever they are with and that they are given the chance to talk to women interviewers because, in some cultures, to admit to rape or even sexual harassment could mean death because it is a crime of honour. We have even seen this happen in public places in other countries. There is an enormous amount of work to do in this area.

Senator Quinn and the bishops have urged the Minister to grant an amnesty to those already here. I deal with a large number of these people because, as I pointed out to the Minister some time ago, it has become very popular to have a baby in Ireland. The pregnant woman has never been more valuable than if she comes here and has a baby as she, her child and other members of the family are entitled to reside in Ireland and the child is entitled to the care and comfort of his or her family. I hope we will not change this position. We could do so as a short-term measure and regret it in ten years because we might not be a favoured destination for refugees at that stage.

The Minister will not think about this before tomorrow, but I suggest it is foolish to introduce legislation such as this, particularly when we were the recipients of the goodwill of other countries to which Irish people travelled. Those people had to work hard but a large number of the refugees I have come across are prepared to do likewise, and a considerable number of them have skills from which we could benefit.

I welcome the Minister and the Bill. The Minister stated that Ireland has become an attractive country in which to live because of its economic success delivered by the Government's polices, for which I compliment all concerned.

No one wanted to come here ten or 15 years ago when Ireland was not economically viable. Thousands left the country but they did not do so in the back of containers and they were not carried out of the country by Irish racketeers. Such practices are taking place at present and that is the purpose of this Bill.

Under the Bill, any person who organises or knowingly facilitates the entry into the State of a person whom he or she knows to be an illegal immigrant will be guilty of an offence punishable on conviction on indictment to an unlimited fine or up to ten years in prison, or both. That is right. Provision has also been made for the forfeiture of the means of transport used for trafficking in illegal immigrants.

The background to the Bill has been well publicised and involves incidents where groups of people are smuggled into the State in goods containers in an attempt to evade normal immigration checks. llegal immigrants are forced to pay thousands of pounds up front by racketeers to gain entry to this country. It does not stop there, because once these people are in the country they are obliged to continue making payments. These people's lives are at risk or are under threat if they do not do so, but since they have no jobs where is the money to come from? A person in such a desperate situation would have to come up with the money by fair means or foul. Everyone knows what I mean by that.

The Minister is concerned by the level of exploitation being perpetrated by organised criminal elements who arrange the movement of vulnerable individuals across European borders under extremely dangerous conditions. The measures in the Bill are in line with those taken by other EU member states.

Several speakers have referred to the tragic incident this week in which 58 people died in a container lorry travelling to Dover. This incident demonstrates the Minister's well-founded concerns on this issue. There is a need to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes such as the trafficking in human beings.

Senator Ross referred to Senator O'Donovan's comments when he suggested the driver was guilty. I would wait for due process, but it is unusual that the first thing that gentleman did when he was stopped was run from the scene. This does not suggest anything to me but I will wait for due process.

There is a legal obligation on all drivers to check their loads before leaving for their destination, but I wonder if that is happening. I am sure there are isolated cases in which innocent drivers are caught up in this trade but, by and large, this crime is well organised.

The Minister stated it is essential we fully honour our international obligations in respect of genuine asylum seekers and refugees who have nothing to fear from this legislation. Comprehensive and fair procedures have been put in place to deal with the backlog of asylum applications and current applications. However, it is vital to send a clear signal to those engaged in trafficking in illegal immigrants that the further exploitation of immigrants and the evasion of immigration procedures will not be tolerated.

The proposals in the legislation are based on the recommendations of the report of the interdepartmental committee on immigration, asylum and related issues, which was accepted by the Government. The Government also approved the drafting of amendments to the Immigration Act, 1999, by means of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill, the net effect of which will be to strengthen the deportation procedure so as to provide the Garda with powers to detain a deportee at the same time as a deportation order is being served if it suspects, with reasonable cause, that the person who is the subject of the order will evade a requirement of that order.

Illegal immigrants are given three chances, they have the right to make an application, to appeal a decision on that application and to seek a judicial review. Senator Dan Kiely rightly pointed out that, in contrast, if one arrives at John F. Kennedy Airport, or any other airport in the US, and one's papers are not in order, one is put on the next flight out of the country. That does not happen here and people are given a fair chance to prove whether they should be accommodated.

The Minister has provided additional resources on an ongoing basis and has succeeded in implementing measures which have resulted in the more efficient processing of applications. The solution lies in further improving the processing of applications. If we can reach a situation whereby applications are dealt with speedily, and the Minister is committed to achieving that objective, the massive influx of illegal immigrants will drop dramatically.

There is a difference between genuine refugees and illegal immigrants. Senator Norris referred to do-gooders, and such people exist in these Houses and outside. However, when these people speak in public, they conveniently ignore the difference between these two groups and the fact they are both seeking asylum, but for different reasons. I welcome the Bill and commend it to the House.

I thank Senators for their constructive contributions to the debate on this important Bill. The debate has been wide-ranging and touched on many facets of the immigration question and related issues in the areas of asylum and refugees. I will try to deal with as many points as I can and look forward to a more detailed examination of the Bill on Committee Stage.

It has been obvious from the debate that we have all struggled to find words to express our total abhorrence and shock at the tragic event in the UK last weekend in which 58 young lives were lost due to the callous disregard for life on the part of those who trade in human beings. This tragic event starkly underlines the need for this Bill which will ensure that our criminal law can deal effectively with those who seek to exploit asylum seekers and other immigrants by engaging in the despicable trade of trafficking in human beings. Unfortunately this is a well recognised international trade and we must stand shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in the EU in combating this international evil.

The immigration phenomenon continues to evolve rapidly in this country and we are also witnessing a significant increase in the number of people seeking asylum. Accordingly, there is a need to ensure that the procedures for dealing with immigration and asylum matters continue to be fitted to the needs of those processes and of those involved.

The Bill includes amendments to the deportation process resulting from actual experience and is designed to make practical improvements to the effectiveness of that process. The Bill also provides a statutory judicial review process tailored to the requirements of actual cases in the immigration and asylum areas. These provisions have been carefully designed in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General to ensure that the effective working of these procedures continues to be consistent with legal principles, with the Constitution and with our human rights obligations, as reflected in the various international instruments to which Ireland has subscribed.

Most importantly, the Bill puts in place the final technicalities to enable me to proceed with the commencement of the Refugee Act and thereby implement an important policy objective of the Government from the outset, namely, to put on a statutory footing the independent processes for the assessment of claims for the protection of the State under the Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees.

I will now turn to the specific points raised by Senators. In general terms, my party colleagues were supportive of what I am trying to achieve. I appreciate their comments and perhaps they will understand why I will deal with the critical points as opposed to those which were supportive. I am afraid that Senator Connor fails to appreciate either the scope of application of the judicial review procedures in section 5 of the Bill or the actual distinction between refugees, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. A cursory glance at section 5 (1) clarifies what procedures are catered for. They include all the various steps in the normal immigration processes of entry to and removal from the State, which apply to a wide range of persons who have never sought asylum in the State as well as to those whose asylum claims have been found to be groundless. Section 5 also applies to the various steps in the asylum process as well as to notorious international war criminals or those against whom exclusion orders have been made.

Senator Connor is wrong to portray the provisions as applying to refugees and asylum seekers. They do not apply to refugees at all. Senator Connor continues to use these two terms in the same breath, as if they were coterminous. This underlines his failure to grasp a very important distinction.

I fully understand the distinction.

A refugee is a person in flight from persecution in his or her home country. An asylum seeker, on the other hand, is a person asserting that he or she is a refugee who may or may not be. An asylum seeker can turn out to be a refugee but he or she can also turn out to be an economic or illegal immigrant. The sad fact is that many asylum seekers do not turn out to be refugees but are people using the asylum process to circumvent our normal immigration controls. In so doing, they abuse the hospitality of the host country and the right of those genuinely in need of the protection of the State to obtain sanctuary.

I cannot tell by looking at an asylum seeker whether he or she is a refugee. Only the very careful and arduous process of investigation of each case can discern that. While that process is going on, we ensure that asylum seekers have food, shelter, medical attention, care and so on. However, if at the end of the process, it turns out that person is not a refugee but an illegal immigrant, I surely owe it to those who are refugees and to society generally to ensure the illegal immigrant goes home.

Senator Connor referred to a number of tragic cases abroad where the deportation process resulted in the death of the person being deported. I assure Senator Connor that I will always try to ensure deportations are carried out humanely with the least risk to all concerned. In this context, deportees are generally accompanied on their journey home by immigration officers to ensure their safety and that of any other passengers on board.

Senator Connor quoted the concern of Amnesty International that the Refugee Act is not yet fully implemented and the principle of non-refoulement is, therefore, on shaky ground. This ignores the fact that section 5 of the Refugee Act, which I commenced in September 1997, stitches that concept into Irish law. I have already indicated that once the technical amendments to the Refugee Act contained in this Bill are enacted, I will be commencing the Refugee Act in its entirety, in fulfilment of my and the Government's commitment to do that.

Like many commentators, Senator Connor seeks to make a comparison between immigration to Ireland and what happened to Irish emigrants in the United States of America. While I obviously welcome the fact that people express concern regarding Irish people who were obliged to emigrate and what happens those who emigrate here, it is important, at the very least from an historical perspective, that the record be put straight. It is not true that the Irish who emigrated to the United States of America in the 18th and 19th centuries and for the vast majority of the 20th century were illegal immigrants, no more than those who were obliged to emigrate to Australia or Britain were. In the vast majority of cases, they were not illegal immigrants.

No, because those countries welcomed them.

I have found on my travels and on meeting with Irish emigrants at these locations that they take very grave offence at assertions by Irish politicians to the effect that they and their ancestors can be described as illegal immigrants. The reality is that there were a number of Irish people in the United States in the 1980s who were illegal immigrants. However, in none of those cases or in any others did the Irish people concerned seek to invoke the Geneva Convention or say they were refugees.

There was an open door policy there.

They never sought to circumvent immigration controls on the basis that they were fleeing persecution or death. That is important and I will tell the Senator why.

The United States had an open door policy from 1960. This country has a closed door.

The asylum process and its integrity is of fundamental international importance because an individual who is a refugee must obtain sanctuary.

Hear, hear.

It is crucial that the process which determines whether or not that individual is a refugee should remain as free as possible—

Hear, hear.

—because there are, throughout the world, regions, areas and times of conflict. It is imperative that people fleeing such situations would have as free a passage through the processes as is humanly possible. It is not fair to generations of Irish immigrants to spread the view that they sought to abuse the asylum process when it is plainly not the case and never has been.

That is absolute rubbish. Does the Minister understand the history of United States immigration law?

Irish men and women, including my ancestors, would take great umbrage to any such suggestion because they did not seek to abuse the asylum process.

They would take umbrage if they heard the Minister's diatribe.

I never said Nigerian police would be located in this country. I have made an arrangement with the government of Romania, which the President of America described as a republic on a visit there, to have two policemen come to this country to liaise and assist. There was never any discussion of the possibility of Nigerian policemen coming here. I am entering into discussions with the Nigerian ambassador and I hope to meet him shortly to discuss the immigration of Nigerian people to this country. An agreement is in place with Romania and I am pleased about the arrangement on re-admissions.

The accusation has been made that by fingerprinting asylum seekers coming into the State they are being stigmatised or criminalised. I reject that out of hand. It is not the case. These fingerprints are being taken because it will be possible in the future, particularly under Eurodac, to make comparisons with a central European database in order to ascertain whether asylum seekers coming into this State whose fingerprints have been taken have made an application in another state. It will be possible under the Dublin Convention, which was signed here, to return such people to make their applications where they made their first application, in accordance with international law. I am trying to observe international law. There is no question of anyone being stigmatised or criminalised. In any event, as I have already explained, fingerprinting will not apply to children.

I strongly reject the argument that we are only looking after ourselves. We have a tremendous humanitarian tradition in giving sanctuary to refugees. This has continued under this Government and will continue long after it has left office. I am confident of that. The position is that asylum seekers who are found to be illegal immigrants are not in the same position as refugees. No amount of argument can change that.

Senator Norris criticised the fingerprinting provisions of the Refugee Act as in some way stigmatising asylum seekers as criminals. Unfortunately, there are facts which must be faced here. Some of them may be unpalatable but, nevertheless, facts are always true. The fact is that people are making two or more applications for asylum under different identities. There have been about 50 such cases in the past year alone. The fact is that people who have already applied for asylum in other EU states are making fresh applications for asylum here. That is why Ireland, in common with all its EU colleagues and many other countries, is introducing fingerprinting, simply, as I said, to distinguish one asylum seeker from another in circumstances where the possession of reliable identity documents is a rarity and to eliminate abuses of the asylum system by multiple applications. That is the express purpose declared in section 9 of the Refugee Act which deals with fingerprinting.

Senator Norris also queried whether there is evidence of trafficking. The facts of what has been happening in this country speak for themselves. Approximately 1,000 asylum seekers arrive here each month. Common sense suggests that 1,000 people do not just decide to come here every month, but that traffickers are at work organising and exploiting at least some of these people. When one considers that approximately half of all asylum applicants are coming from two countries, Nigeria and Romania, and we now have the highest annual number of asylum seekers from these countries in the European Union, common sense suggests that a deliberate targeting and marketing of Ireland in those two countries is in operation. Furthermore, when one considers that asylum seekers often say on their arrival or when being interviewed by officials in relation to their asylum claims that they paid large amounts of money to agents to arrange their journeys and that in many cases they were unaware of where they were going, one would have to bury one's head in the sand to maintain there is little evidence that trafficking is taking place.

In addition, operational information available to the Garda about the pattern of trafficking through Northern Ireland, intelligence on suspected traffickers in this State and Garda information on large transfers of money back to countries of origin indicate that trafficking is taking place. If I need to say more to convince Senators of the organised criminal nature of this type of activity, I will point to regular examples of professionally forged registration books and immigration stamps found here and abroad. The Garda is also investigating allegations that Irish passports are being obtained by persons taking on the identities of deceased Irish children.

I reject completely the suggestion by Senator Norris that we in this country are morally responsible for the callous actions of traffickers because we seek to operate what I describe as the sovereign right to control the people who come to this country. We exercise these controls in accordance with fundamental principles of Irish and international law, which have been well recognised by the courts. Traffickers are subject to no such controls. What we witnessed last weekend in the United Kingdom is evidence of this fact. I resent the comparison made by the Senator.

The contributions of Senators Quinn and Costello seemed to suggest there is no legal immigration to Ireland. This is utterly mistaken. All one need do is look around to see there is legal immigration to this country. One need only look at Chinese and Indian restaurants, pharmacies and the health service. Foreign doctors have come to our shores for many years, both to learn from our medical schools and to contribute their skills. Unfortunately, it suits some people's agendas to promote the notion there is no means of legal immigration to this State. It is a pity that some have been taken in by that misrepresentation. My Department has a sizeable division dedicated to catering for the many thousands of people who migrate legally into this State every year—

From England and the United States.

—many of whom, in the fullness of time, obtain citizenship by naturalisation. The falsehood that there is no legal immigration to this country is dangerous because it brings comfort to those who argue that abusing the asylum process by making an unfounded claim of persecution is in some way justifiable. That is never justifiable – all it does is to trample on the rights of those who really are persecuted.

The argument has been made in this House and in other quarters that people who are deemed to be illegal immigrants or whose status has not been determined should be allowed work in the State. It has been seriously suggested to me that the way to fill the labour market is by means of illegal immigration. The result of that suggestion could only be catastrophic. There is no doubt it would mean thousands of people arriving in this State on the assumption that, irrespective of their status, they would be allowed work here. I am not aware of other states which allow an unrestricted right to work of this nature. I have cautioned against it consistently over a three year period. The difficulty is that it would be represented abroad as meaning precisely what I just said, that people coming here would have the certainty of working here. Senators should make no mistake – that would be an enormous pull factor.

The argument that it does not make economic sense not to allow people awaiting determination of their applications to work does not stand up. On 26 July 1999 the Government decided, in good faith, that people in the State at that point or those who had been here for a year would have the right to work. That July, over 500 people came into the State. The decision of the Government was clearly misrepresented abroad as meaning that anybody who arrived into the State would be allowed work. Within one month, the numbers coming into the State had almost doubled. I rest my case in regard to the attraction, or otherwise, of the right to work.

The numbers have doubled every year since the Minister took office. They were very low before he was appointed.

The argument has been made that the amount of time before decisions on applications are being dealt with is getting longer. Since coming into office, I have increased the number of staff dealing with this area from 22 to 300. When I took office, 22 people were trying to deal with thousands of applications. Most people did not know—

The Minister tells us the same cant every time he comes here.

—when, if ever, they would obtain an interview. That is the reality of the situation.

As regards the position now, the Government has agreed in principle that I will be able to take on additional staff. These figures are being agreed at present with the Minister for Finance. The objective of the exercise is to ensure the Government's stated aim of hearing applications within a six month period will be fulfilled. Incidentally, it is always difficult to achieve that when one is dealing with issues of this nature. The necessary legal constraints delimit one's scope for shorten ing applications. Every application must be heard substantively. On appeal, a person may make the argument that he or she should be allowed stay on humanitarian grounds and there is always the option of judicial review.

An amnesty was called for in the House this afternoon. I know what would happen if there was an amnesty.

The bishops have called for one too.

It would amount to a call for another amnesty and then other. This may sound blunt, but the result of that would be to create a major pull factor.

According to Senator Quinn, my only policy is one of stopping immigrants and that it is morally and economically indefensible. I reject that charge for the simple reason that I have a very onerous constitutional responsibility, which I take very seriously, to protect the borders, economy and security of this State. It is not a question of stopping immigrants coming in but of ensuring that people who enter this State are here legally. That is something which each other sovereign government seems to impose without difficulty. For some reason for some considerable time there have been people in Ireland who for historical or other reasons – I do not know why – object to what is internationally renowned and respected practice. The difficulty is that while I may be criticised across the Chamber and in the other House in relation to my policies, it is only if I give in or agree that given measures should be conceded that I can prove what I said in the first instance was correct. It is a "heads you lose, tails you lose" situation.

I can only tell Members that based on the best advice available to me and on my reading of the situation I firmly and passionately believe that what I am proposing and legislating for is right. This will not be established today or tomorrow, but only when another Minister changes the policy and we see the subsequent consequences. As of now, I am holding my position.

The Minister's place in history is assured and it is not a good one.

I share in the condemnation of the recent high profile attacks, apparently motivated by racism, and of many other lower profile but nonetheless abhorrent incidents. My commitment to stamping out racism before it develops to the scale we see in other countries is already a matter of record and I continue to fund practical community based anti-racism measures through the programme established for that purpose. In addition, I have established a committee on racism and interculturalism which is expected to report to me very shortly so that we can embark on a major public awareness campaign to deal with any ignorance which exists among a small minority about people of a different cultural background.

Put them in touch with Deputy Healy-Rae.

Senator Costello suggested the Bill on its own is not enough to deal with the operations of traffickers. The Bill provides specifically for the extra-territorial effect of the offence. Of course, I accept legislation on its own will not deter traffickers and that, in addition, we need international co-operation with police and immigration authorities. The House may be aware that Europol has been given competence to deal with trafficking in human beings and that international police co-operation can be and is used to track the activities of traffickers.

In this context I express my appreciation to the British Home Secretary and the French Interior Minister for the warmth of the reception they gave me and my officials when we visited them in recent weeks, and in particular for the positive response regarding the concerns we expressed. The necessity for formal contacts between immigration authorities in various jurisdictions on a day to day operational level and at a more formal policy level, has become more apparent than ever. Such contact must also involve carriers such as ferry companies who also have a role to play as the providers of the services which are exploited by those involved in trafficking.

No doubt Senators are aware that on 8 May 2000 the Government agreed a number of measures in relation to asylum, refugees and immigration matters. These measures include the strengthening of Garda international liaison arrangements by the placing of Garda liaison officers in London and Paris for the purpose of interacting with local law enforcement authorities on immigration matters, with particular emphasis on combating trafficking activity and on departures from major embarkation points to Ireland. On 12 June I met the UK Home Secretary and on 19 June I met the French Interior Minister. The latter meeting took place as the tragic events at Dover were unfolding. I secured the agreement of both Ministers to the proposed placement of the officers in question and their interaction on a pro-active basis with the relevant French and UK authorities on immigration matters in general, with particular emphasis on combating trafficking activity. The officers in question will have a critical role to play in maintaining liaison between our immigration and police services on issues concerning illegal immigration, and in particular in liaison between police and immigration services at ports and airports. I intend that such liaison will continue and be developed. A further meeting at official level has been arranged with the UK and is in the course of being arranged with the French authorities. My intention is to strengthen these contacts even further in the coming months.

In the light of these contacts the question of the placement of further liaison officers in particular problem ports or airports will be considered. In so far as the UK is concerned that consideration will have to take account of the existence of the common travel area which results in the imposition of occasional rather than systematic checks on passengers. The common travel area between the respective jurisdictions is of enormous value and relevance to Ireland and its people. Because the vast majority of asylum seekers arrive in the State via the UK or France, the Government recognises that a strengthening of international liaison with those countries in particular is important in identifying information or immigration trends and flows and other immigration related activities.

Senator Costello said I was attacking the wrong target. I suggest that he is attacking the wrong target, that he is attacking the messenger because of the message. Neither do I agree when he says no real distinction has been made between people operating out of humanitarian motives and traffickers. The difference is clearly spelled out in the legislation, but I look forward to further discussion with him on that tomorrow.

With regard to the Offences Against the State Acts—

Organisations representing asylum seekers do not agree with the Minister.

It is difficult if not impossible to quantify the preventive effects of the Offences Against the State Acts. I suggest they have been extremely successful.

Senator Costello raised the issue of legal immigration which I have explained exists. I do not at all accept that I or the Government made a hames of deportations. The reality is that the matter was before the High Court for most of last year. Subsequent to that, the Immigration Act, 1999, was enacted. It is true to say that our immigration laws, based on the Aliens Act, 1935, are entirely inadequate for a modern society and do not reflect the far greater degree of mobility and ease of access and egress. These factors are not addressed by the 1935 Act. The Immigration Act, 1999, which arose from the High Court case, was aimed at dealing with that judgment.

It may come as no surprise to Senator Costello or anybody else that very few take up an invitation, as outlined in legislation, whereby the authorities write to the person to be deported saying they should be at a certain place on a certain date at a certain time so that they can be deported. This has been the precise position in relation to the deportation procedures in the State and that is why—

That is hardly part of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill.

—I am seeking to change the provision in this Bill. The argument has been put forward in both Houses that this is hardly the place to include such provisions, as if including it in another Bill would change the entire concept. Whether provision in made in this Bill or legislation entitled the Soothsayers Bill, 2000, is of very little relevance.

It is very relevant. The Minister is passing draconian measures under a different guise.

The vehicle used is irrelevant – what is contained in the vehicle is what is pertinent, something which is surely recognised by everybody. I did not have the luxury of time to introduce a new Bill dealing with these provisions, but I am satisfied that I would not be doing my duty by the taxpayer or the people if I did not take the opportunity of including these measures in this vehicle. Of that I am certain, because the existing legislation is inadequate.

Or his duty by Deputy Healy-Rae.

How many more times must I explain that?

If Senator Costello or one of his colleagues was the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and if they implemented the policies they have been advocating in this and the other House, the system would not cope but would be in a state of collapse.

There were about 2,000 refugees in the country when the Minister came to office.

Neither do I accept the argument—

Now there are at least 25,000.

Neither do I accept the argument that increasing the wall increases the price. I am not seeking to increase walls or prices. All I am seeking to do is to modernise immigration legislation to reflect what is happening on the Continent and throughout the free world. I am seeking to do no more or less than that.

The Minister is seeking to do much more than what is done on the Continent.

All the measures I am introducing are common place in other jurisdictions.

They are not.

Commonplace, and that is a fact.

Senator Maurice Hayes said I am in danger of being overwhelmed by a great stone being pushed up a hill. If I do not introduce these measures it will not be one stone which will fall on me but several as the entire system will collapse. It is quite simple. I was informed during my recent visit that in France alone there will be 10,000 applicants each month. I am the first to accept that the people concerned are vulnerable and unfortunate. The difficulty is that only a percentage of those vulnerable and unfortunate people are refugees for whom international law deals with the issue of sanctuary. Naturally the Government is prepared to obey it. The difficulty on this small island on the periphery of Europe is that I cannot solve the international humanitarian problem. I cannot open the borders of the State and state that I could make a dent on the problem.

Why does the Minister not help?

The truth is that that would be to the detriment of the people, illegal immigrants and refugees and a terrible and desperate injustice to future generations. I am not prepared to countenance this.

Gloom, gloom, gloom.

I have put the position as well as I can. Senator Henry spoke about the exploitation of women and children, a matter about which I am also concerned. We have introduced legislation to deal with the dissemination of child pornography over the Internet. We are also seeking to ensure interviews are held, people's human dignity is respected and every human being is treated properly and with great dignity. There is no intention of changing the rule whereby a child born on the island of Ireland becomes an Irish citizen. That is the position under the Constitution and part of the Good Friday Agreement. It was a statutory right; it is now a constitutional right.

I thank Senators for their contributions. The immigration process generally and the asylum process in particular have developed and continue to develop rapidly, at a pace and to a level few would have predicted. The problem is a dynamic one and may, as we have learned from our experience of the operation of our laws and procedures, require us to provide immediate responses from time to time. The current situation has shown that in certain circumstances our procedures and controls urgently need to be underpinned or defined to improve their operational effect and efficiency, in some cases to guard against abuse and ultimately to ensure the longer term credibility of our immigration and asylum systems. It also underlines the continuing need for review of how the law operates and a willingness on the part of the Legislature, not just in this instance but also into the future, to take the necessary steps to rectify flaws and introduce improvements to take account of the evolving situation.

I have referred to my proposals under development in the Department for a comprehensive Bill which will set forth a modern legal framework for the future development and implementation of immigration policies suited to the needs of our society paying proper respect to our human rights obligations. I will not hesitate however to bring forward further legislation in advance of that comprehensive immigration and residence Bill where I perceive a need for statutory change in the immigration or asylum areas to deal with any practical problems which may arise and cannot await the main Bill.

I respect the views of those who hold an opposite opinion and the motivation which underlies their expression. I just do not agree with them.

Would it be appropriate to apologise to the Minister for trying his patience and wasting his time? It is unfair when Senators make what are intended to be helpful suggestions that they are either lectured or patronised.

Question put.

Bonner, Enda.Callanan, Peter.Cassidy, Donie.Chambers, Frank.Cregan, John.Dardis, John.Farrell, Willie.Fitzgerald, Tom.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Gibbons, Jim.Glennon, Jim.Glynn, Camillus.

Kett, Tony.Kiely, Daniel.Kiely, Rory.Leonard, Ann.Lydon, Don.Mooney, Paschal.Moylan, Pat.O'Brien, Francis.O'Donovan, Denis.Ó Fearghail, Seán.Ormonde, Ann.Walsh, Jim.


Caffrey, Ernie.Connor, John.Coogan, Fintan.

Costello, Joe.Henry, Mary.O'Dowd, Fergus.Quinn, Feargal.

Tellers: Tá, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Gibbons; Níl, Senators Connor and Costello.
Question declared carried.
Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 22 June 2000.