International Protection Bill 2015: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages

We have dealt with section 2 and are moving to section 3.

I have a point of order as the record needs to be corrected. We were misled in the House last week by the Minister of State and a number of Senators who stated there was support from the non-governmental organisations for the Bill being brought forward. It seems a number of those organisations, including the Irish Refugee Council, the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland and the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, NASC, have had to issue a statement to clarify that they have not given their full support to the Bill and believe it should be withdrawn.

That is not a point of order, but the Senator may make the point in the course of the debate.

The point of order is that the House was misled in the debate on the Bill. I call on the Minister of State at this stage-----

It is not a point of order.

-----and in the light of the shambolic nature of the debate last week to withdraw the Bill.

The matter may be corrected later in the debate, but it is not a point of order.

I have another point of order to raise. The Minister of State also told us we would receive a copy of the 26 recommendations that had been included in the Bill.

That is not a point of order but rather a request that can be made later.

We were not given them in preparation for today's debate.

It is a matter for the Minister of State, not the House. He might address it when he speaks.

It is shameful that it has not been forwarded to us and is another example of how the Department treats the House.

NEW SECTION

Amendment No. 10 is in the name of Senators Jillian van Turnhout, Fiach Mac Conghail and others. Amendments Nos. 10, 36, 39, 49 and 215 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 11, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

“Specific provisions relating to children

3. (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), in the application of this Act (or any provision thereof) in relation to a child under the age of 18 years, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

(2) Nothing in this Act shall affect any provisions that are more conducive to the realisation of the rights of the child and that may be contained in other enactments or in international law in force in respect of the State and, in particular, in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

(3) In the application of this Act (or any provision thereof) in relation to a child under the age of 18 years, the State and any person (including the Minister) authorised to perform a function under this Act shall perform its functions in a manner compatible with the State’s obligations under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”.

I will speak on the group of amendments because I tabled Nos. 10, 49 and 215. I welcome the Minister of State and thank his officials for their engagement with me on some of the issues I have with the Bill.

Amendment No. 10 is concerned with the best interests of the child. Article 3.1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child outlines that "In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration". The purpose of the amendment is that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration rather than the primary or paramount consideration. That is absolutely critical. At present, the Bill only refers to the best interests of the child in a limited way, namely, where international protection has been granted upon recognition of the child's status, in the application of a medical examination to determine the age of an unaccompanied minor or in certain aspects of the conduct of protection interviews for unaccompanied minors. The UNHCR working group recommendation clearly states "The International Protection Bill 2015 should reflect the general principle contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child that the best interests of the child be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children". My understanding is that the report was circulated to all Departments and the Attorney General. I am surprised, therefore, that its recommendations were not incorporated into the Bill. The best interest of the child is defined in detail in the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. The courts, in determining the best interests of the child for the purpose of the Act, must consider the physical, emotional, psychological, education and social needs of the child, including his or her need for stability having regard to age and stage of development. Furthermore, since the list of considerations is not exhaustive, the court can look beyond them when making a determination concerning the child.

I do not advocate that a specific definition of what constitutes the best interest of the child be devised. The omission of an explicit definition by those who drafted the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child was intended to allow for the appropriate balance of considerations within what should be well-defined procedural frameworks. I recall the excellent unpacking of this concept by Emily Logan, then Ombudsman for Children, at the 2008 Janusz Korczak lecture in Stockholm, where she said:

The best interests principle comprises a procedural rule, it governs how we go about decision-making with regard to children. It is a legally binding rule that States must follow. The rule does not state that children’s interests always come first. The aim of the rule is not to encroach on the rights of others, but to facilitate an examination of the interests of a vulnerable group. A child’s best interests should be considered in relation to all actions concerning them, that is when the action directly affects them or regards or touches them.

I understand there are concerns that amendment No. 10 which suggests the best interests of the child be a primary consideration could conflict with some of Ireland's obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights. I am confused and concerned by this reasoning but for this reason, I redrafted my proposed amendment. The best interest of the child is not defined and is certainly not a jus cogens principle of international law, from which no derogation is allowed - it is a right subject to consideration and balancing where it competes with other rights. The European Court of Human Rights has asserted the importance of the child's best interests and has also stressed the importance of reuniting the child with his or her family unless it is not in the child's best interest. While I do not necessarily agree with the Department's view on this point, in an effort to assuage its concerns, I proposed that the best interest principle be subject to the obligation to comply with international law and conventions, in particular with the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It should also be noted that the best interests of the child is included in the recast asylum procedures directive.

This directive was drafted by EU lawyers with full regard to the European Convention on Human Rights and other legal agreements. Conflicts or difficulties are always identified early on. The directive provides for the best interests in several places. However, the most relevant for the purpose of the International Protection Bill is Article 23, which cites:

The best interests of the child shall be of primary consideration for member states when implementing the provisions of this directive that involves minors. Member states shall ensure a standard of living adequate for the minor's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.

In practice, it is all about interpretation in the Irish system. In the absence of either a domestic or internationally agreed definition, I have heard it argued that the phrase "the best interests of the child" has no clear meaning in law. However, the Legislature can choose to deal with this in a variety of ways. For example, in the Children and Family Relationships Act, the Legislature chose to define what the best interests are, as I cited. There is a test that the courts must apply when making a decision "in the best interests of children". According to the special rapporteur on child protection, the Children and Family Relationships Act includes one of the best definitions in the world.

Only last week at the recent Civil Service excellence and innovation awards the Department of Justice and Equality won an award for its work in this area on the best interests of the child. On the other hand, if we look at the Child and Family Agency Act, the Legislature chose not to define "the best interests of the child" and to leave it to the agency and the courts to interpret. In the current Bill, the definition could be left to the courts to interpret or the Legislature could define it now. Another option would be for the Bill to include a clause that the Minister could define the best interests by ministerial order. Let us remember that the best interests of the child is in the Constitution in Article 42.A. This is a part of the trend in legislating for children's rights. If we can implement the best interests of the child in child care and family law settings, why can we not do it for a small group of children in the international protection process? Why are asylum-seeking children always left out in the cold?

The second amendment I tabled is No. 49 which relates to Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which is very clear on child detention. It states, "The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time". As I said on Second Stage, I have a grave concern around the reading of section 20(1)(c) when read in conjunction with section 20(7). This is a breach of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child general comment No. 6 which provides that in cases of uncertainty as to the individual's age the individual should be given the benefit of the doubt and be considered a child.

On the presumption of age, the problem is that asylum seekers often do not have access to proof of age, and sometimes may not be certain as to their age. Many children around the world are not formally registered at birth, although the position is improving. I have included, however, an amendment that I feel would raise the low threshold that is in the Bill, that would require the view of an immigration officer or a garda to be supported by a second officer or garda and a requirement to ensure an age assessment is undertaken at the earliest opportunity. In putting forward the amendments, I very much thank my colleagues in my group, Senators Fiach Mac Conghail, Averil Power, Marie-Louise O'Donnell, Mary Ann O'Brien and Katherine Zappone for their support for the amendments.

I understand and appreciate that some NGOs have advocated not to support the Bill. I do not wish to open up a general discussion on the matter, but I have put forward the amendments to engage robustly and substantively with the Bill. I believe change is incremental and the Bill represents the first opportunity in almost ten years to raise the baseline. Each time we raise that baseline we can hopefully raise it further. It is my role and responsibility as a legislator to engage actively and fully in the legislative process and to work to secure the necessary changes in the Bill. Ultimately, the question for me is whether children's rights have been strengthened and whether in my consideration of the Bill the situation for asylum seekers on the whole has been improved.

We have just received a document from the Government regarding the 26 recommendations of the working group that have been included in the Bill. I am very disappointed that we only received this document this afternoon. It is quite clear that the Minister of State had this document last Thursday. The fact it has only been given to us now, once the debate has started, is appalling. It gives us no chance to study the 26 recommendations in full to determine what has been included or left out. It shows again the appalling tactics being used by the Government in the debate on the Bill. The Government was afraid to give us this document last week in case we came back today and argued against those elements of the Bill with which we are unhappy. It is deplorable that we are only seeing this document now.

We also received a statement over the weekend from four NGOs regarding the Bill. I hope we will not hear sweeping statements from those on the Government side to the effect the Bill has the full support of the NGO sector because the opposite is the case. The four NGOs which issued the statement are key in this area. They are fully supportive of a single protection process that will work effectively but they have outlined a number of serious concerns with the Bill which I will refer to as the debate progresses.

In the particular grouping of amendments under discussion, Sinn Féin proposed amendments Nos. 36 and 215. The former reads as follows:

In page 20, line 27, after “understand” to insert “, including, where appropriate, an information leaflet written in a child friendly manner”.

We believe it is important where the application for protection is for or by a child that information regarding law and procedures should be understandable to the child concerned.

Amendment No. 215 reads as follows:

In page 57, line 37, to delete “sections 52 to 56” and substitute “the International Protection Act 2015”.

The current provision, as has been outlined, is contrary to Ireland's obligations under the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as it only extends to children once they have been granted protection status. There is also just limited reference to "the best interests of the child" in the context of the personal interview but it should be a primary principle throughout the process. Under Article 22 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Ireland is obliged to take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking refugee status or who is considered a refugee "shall, whether unaccompanied or accompanied by his or her parents or by any other person, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of applicable rights set forth in the present Convention". Furthermore, the recast asylum procedures directive calls on states, in assessing the best interests of the child, to take due account of the minor's well-being and social development, including his or her background. The proposed amendment would ensure the best interests of the child were paramount throughout the protection process.

I commend the various NGOs for assisting us in the formulation of amendments to the Bill. The Irish Refugee Council made numerous recommendations on the International Protection Bill 2015 and outlined a number of serious concerns with the legislation. The main concerns include the failure to embed the principle of "the best interests of the child" and the associated weaknesses which will potentially expose children to harm; the lack of protection in the single application procedure against error and omission and, therefore, the risk that wrong decisions will be made without adequate checks and balances and a right of redress; and the lack of respect for the rights of refugees to obtain family reunification. The council outlines a number of other concerns in its submission. It believes the best interests of the child, as declared in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, are a paramount consideration for both accompanied and separated children seeking international protection. Correspondingly, Ireland, as a state party to the aforementioned convention, must uphold its commitments to promote and respect children's rights in a non-discriminatory manner, including in the context of children seeking protection here, whether accompanied or separated. Currently, the Bill only refers in a limited way to the "best interests of the child" principle in the context of the content of international protection granted on recognition of a child's status in section 57(2). That is why the council has recommended that a new provision be included in the Bill reflecting this overarching obligation to respect the rights of the child.

Nasc Ireland, the Irish Immigration Support Centre, has also been in contact with us to highlight the fact that the general comment No. 6 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child states that asylum-seeking children, including those who are unaccompanied or separated, "shall enjoy access to asylum procedures and other complimentary mechanisms" providing international protection, irrespective of age.

The Nasc recommendations continue as follows:

As it stands, under Section 15(3) of the Bill, a person who makes an application for protection under subsection (1)(a) 'shall be deemed to also have made an application for international protection on behalf of his or her dependent child where the child is not an Irish citizen', under certain criteria outlined in Section 15(3)(a-c). This is counter to the rights of the child to make a separate protection application on their own behalf. Amending Section 15(3) to clearly articulate that right, it will also remove any potential conflict with Head 7(2)f, which makes explicit reference to acts of persecution of a child-specific nature.

I have a serious problem with the failure of the Bill to address issues of child care and protection, particularly in respect of direct provision. The legislation offers an opportunity to provide some light and hope in respect of addressing issues relating to direct provision. I agreed with everything the Minister of State said during a Seanad debate on direct provision on 22 January 2015. For example, he stated, "Hand on heart, as an asylum seeker, I could see myself spending a period of weeks or months in some centres but there were some in which I would not like to spend a night." Later, speaking about a man he met in a direct provision centre in Limerick, he made the following comments:

As a society, system and country we have compounded his misery and broken him and I do not know if he will ever be repaired. I feel keenly that we have a responsibility to him, and also to children, who have been broken by the situation in which they find themselves. On my visits I noticed children playing a game called kitchen in the play spaces provided in direct provision centres. When they were playing they looked for an orange dispenser in the toy because that is the only way they know to get orange juice. It has never been given to them by their mother and they do not know about food preparation. Therefore, it is very disconcerting for me to see that this country still persists in prolonging its love affair with incarceration [that is the word the Minister of State used]. Apparently in the 1950s we had 250,000 people in mental institutions. Ireland also has a history of mother and baby homes, Magdalen laundries and an industrial schools system, yet again we revert to incarcerating and storing people while they wait for their asylum applications to be processed.

I fully agreed with the Minister of State when he spoke those words in the Chamber in January. I am disappointed, therefore, that none of these issues concerning the rights of children has been addressed in the Bill and I do not have any hope that they will be. I speak daily to people who work with those in direct provision centres. This is a missed opportunity.

I call on Senators to consider refusing to support the Bill because it is being used as a Trojan horse to introduce measures that will row back on the human rights provisions in existing legislation. Senators should not be swayed by an amendment here or there because, as four non-governmental organisations stated over the weekend, the Bill gives rise to serious issues. It should be withdrawn at this stage. While we accept certain provisions on the single procedure, a large amount of work remains to be done on the remainder of the Bill, which Sinn Féin is unable to support in its current form.

I welcome the Minister of State. I also welcome this opportunity to resume our debate on the Bill and to discuss Committee Stage amendments. I hope it will be possible to consider including more references in the text to the best interests of the child as a primary consideration. I am conscious that this is provided for in a number of sections. It is clearly set out in section 24 dealing with the examination to determine the age of unaccompanied minors, section 35 dealing with applicants who are unaccompanied minors, and section 57 dealing with the vulnerable persons. I am conscious that this important phrase is already specifically spelled out in some provisions of the Bill. All Senators will also be aware of the constitutional provision on the rights of the child to which all legislation is subject. That must be said.

Notwithstanding this, I support, in principle, Senator Jillian van Turnhout's attempt to ensure that this consideration is adhered to or emphasised throughout the Bill. We should try to find some way to achieve this objective. I am conscious that the Bill must go through all Stages in the Dáil, which means there may be time to consider whether it would be useful or effective to place further specific reference to that consideration in other provisions of the Bill. As I stated, it is specifically outlined in the three sections that make what may be the three most relevant provisions.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout and the other Senators who tabled amendments are engaging constructively to ensure the Bill is improved upon, which is welcome. Last week, I was one of the Senators who stated the Bill had been broadly welcomed in principle by non-government organisations. I stand over that statement.

I am looking at the comment made by the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, NASC, last week: "Nasc welcomes the introduction of the International Protection Bill 2015, and we welcome the fact that the Bill relates solely to protection". In its note on the Bill, dated 30 November, the Irish Refugee Council states: "The Irish Refugee Council supports the introduction of new legislation in this field given previous attempts to legislate dating back almost ten years and agrees that a new application procedure is needed as soon as possible".

Let us not have posturing on this issue. This is the first attempt in ten years to raise the baseline in a flawed and problematic process. Clearly, there is a great deal more to be done, even just in terms of the working group's recommendations on direct provision. However, direct provision is only one part of our immigration and legal framework which, as I said, needs a great deal more reform. Let us recall that in the four or five years of the previous Government it made tortuous attempts to bring forward an overarching immigration, residence and protection Bill but failed to do so. This Bill only deals with a small part of the issue - international protection. It will greatly improve matters for those who will seek asylum in the future by providing for a single unified procedure and for those in the direct provision system by ensuring people will not be left languishing for long periods of time.

All of us, across parties, have spoken about the need to reform the direct provision system and to end it in its current form, in which delay is the biggest problem. The recommendation of the working group was early enactment and implementation of a single procedure, by way of the International Protection Bill. That deals with one of the biggest issues in the direct provision system - the long period of time spent in it, with children growing up knowing of no other life but living in direct provision accommodation. Let us agree on that much. I cannot understand how any NGO can suggest the Bill does not represent an improvement on the current procedure. There is a lot more to be done, but let us engage constructively to improve the provisions of the Bill.

I have spoken openly about the speed with which we are getting through the Bill and the fact that there are so many Government amendments so soon after publication, albeit most of them are not substantive and are relatively technical, relating to a change of name. Clearly, the Bill is not ideal, yet it represents a significant improvement and is long overdue. It is most unfortunate, therefore, that we are now hearing people calling for it to be withdrawn or seeing them protest outside Leinster House, saying "Kill the Bill." If that happens, when will we see it back in the House? Let us be honest about it. We know that we have limited time left in the lifetime of the Government. Let us try to get the Bill through, improve it as it goes through, engage constructively on it with the Government to seek to bring about the other recommendations of the working group as they relate to direct provision and work towards the future overarching immigration law reform we so badly need. This is the first step which is welcome and long overdue.

I support Senator Jillian van Turnhout's amendment. Like most legislation when it is published, the Bill is not perfect. I concur with Senator Ivana Bacik when she says what is contained in it is a lot better than what has been ongoing for the past eight or ten years in the direct provision system. However, I am not happy with it and have tabled reams of amendments. I understand it has to pass through this House and all I am asking is that the Minister of State and his officials allow for certain improvements by way of amendments within the framework of the Bill, without destroying it and what it is trying to achieve. I am also not entirely happy that debate on the Bill is to be guillotined at 7 p.m. That is regrettable because when we returned after the summer recess in September, there were five or six weeks in which we twiddled our thumbs because little legislation was brought through to us for consideration. There was the same situation last year and it is most regrettable that we are now sitting late hours and five days a week. I will not be a killjoy and say the Bill must be thrown out, as I accept that it can be improved on. In that regard, I hope the Minister of State will accept some of our amendments.

I am in a difficult situation because of my position as Leas-Chathaoirleach. There will be times today and tomorrow when I will have to be in the Chair and I must be impartial in as far as I can be. At the same time, I have proposed amendments and hope the Minister of State will consider them carefully. I am aware of Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh's position on the Bill, but I would not go that far. While I believe there are defects in the Bill, improvements can be made. Senator Ivana Bacik put it well when she said that if we were to set aside the Bill, a new Government would not be formed until next March or April and we would lose almost another year as a result.

It is unfair to those who are in direct provision. I have said in this House before that children are growing up in direct provision. It is contravening the Constitution and the international rules. If we could make some improvement through additional legislation in six months time, next year or the year after, it would polish up and improve on the present Bill. I want to state my position and hope the Minister of State will give a response that will soothe the points Senator Jillian van Turnhout has very cogently made.

I can speak to amendments Nos. 10, 36, 39, 49 and 215. I will first make some general comments about some of the contributions that have been made. I have to concur with much of what Senator Ivana Bacik said. This legislation is trying to clean up an area of public policy that has robustly failed over quite a prolonged period. We have had a Bill kicking around the place for 12 to 15 years. Finally, we have taken the protection piece out of that legislation in order to ensure new applicants have a more transparent and quicker protection process. The biggest problem with our system has been identified.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh seems to be confusing this Bill with a direct provision Bill. This is not a direct provision Bill. Last week he wanted to abolish direct provision, with no sense of how he was going to house thousands of asylum seekers. He would just leave them go homeless and put them on the housing lists, I suppose, with no provision whatsoever for them. Now he is trying to conflate the two issues again. I stand over absolutely everything I said that the Senator has just quoted back to me, and more.

This protection Bill is an effort to ensure we do not have people languishing in direct provision for years on end, or children growing up in it. That is the whole point of the exercise. I will attest to the recommendations of the working group on the protection system, which reported not just on direct provision but on the whole system. That was the whole point of the working group. I hate to remind Senators, but about 4,000 people who are seeking asylum here are not in direct provision.

"The early enactment and implementation of a single procedure by way of the International Protection Bill as a matter of urgency" is one recommendation made in the report. Another is: "As an additional safeguard, an annual review of the system with a view to making recommendations to guard against any future backlogs...". Both recommendations are covered in the general aims of the Bill. The report also states: "The review should also look at the option of reducing the five year mark in future years as appropriate." That is in the general aims of the Bill. It also states: "Where the State does not opt-in to an instrument for discrete reasons [...], the State should give full effect to the remaining provisions in order to safeguard important common standards and to promote consistency in the application of protection procedures and standards across the EU". Again, that is in the Bill. "The International Protection Bill 2015 should reflect the general principle contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child"; that is outlined also. "The International Protection Bill should clearly provide that all children have the right to lodge an application for international protection"; that is provided for in sections 14, 15, 34, 35 and 57. "In relation to separated children, work should be undertaken to clarify the position with regard to access to the protection process in practice and age assessment procedures"; that is provided for in sections 14, 24 and 57. I can go on if the Senators wish me to do so. "The International Protection Bill 2015 should be further scrutinised to ensure the rights of the child to be heard are given sufficient expression and protection"; that is provided for in sections 14, 15, 24, 34, 35 and 57. These are all recommendations from the working group report which are dealt with in the Bill. Remarkably, some NGOs and others have contacted me to say the working group report is on a shelf somewhere and is not being implemented. It is the only game and the only document in town. There is no other document or piece of paper from which anybody in the Department, including me and the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, is working. That is the document we are using to drive though reforms in this area.

"The International Protection Bill 2015 should contain a provision requiring decision-makers who take decisions in relation to children and those who interview them to have received and continue to receive appropriate procedural and substantive training"; that is provided for in sections 34 and 35. More of the recommendations are included in sections 15, 34, 35, 47, 57, 61, 62, 64, 72 and so on. Twenty-six of the recommendations are provided for. I might also say some of these recommendations will make other recommendations null and void.

This is because if one gets people out of the system within six months, the entire idea of having access to the labour market after nine months will no longer be relevant, because everyone will have gone through the system by then. The entire point of what the Government is trying to achieve with this legislation is to ensure the avoidance of the inhumane reality of people living in centres for years on end. That is the entire point of this protection Bill because, as Members will be aware, the numbers are increasing. That is a fact, not a value judgment. While it used to be the case that Ireland dealt with numbers in the hundreds, it now is dealing with numbers in the thousands. This is simply what is being dealt with and is the way it is. This year, the number should be something greater than 3,500. That is not a value judgment; it is simply a statement of fact. The Government is trying to clean up the system under which there are 34 asylum centres nationwide, and has acknowledged that Ireland must opt into a system from which we previously had an opt-out clause. We must opt in and accept 4,000 refugees into Ireland because that is the humane thing to do, and meanwhile, an increasing number of people are coming here to claim asylum. The Bill will enable the Government to deal with that situation in a much more humane and compassionate fashion than has been the case in the past. I ask the Senator to not confuse the two issues - direct provision and the protection Bill. I am talking about what the Government is trying to do. The assumption is that somehow, within this legislation, the Government can deal with the system of direct provision. The entire point of this legislation is that people can be assessed quickly, humanely and transparently within a short time in order that they are not obliged to spend endless years in direct provision centres. I might also note that it does not matter what conditions are available in direct provision - I absolutely agree they must be robustly changed and improved in many of the centres - because people do not wish to live in them; they want to get a decision on their application. This is what they seek.

The last point I will make, because the suggestion was that the Government is somehow keeping from people these recommendations and their effect on the Bill, is that officials from the Department worked on that document over the weekend to ensure it was available for Senators today. The documents were sitting in a pile outside the Chamber when I came in, which some Senators obviously did not notice on their way into the Chamber.

That is because nobody notified Members that it was being made available.

On amendment No. 10-----

The Minister of State himself told Members that this would be given to them.

The Minister of State to continue, without interruption.

On amendment No. 10, I unfortunately cannot agree with Senator Jillian van Turnhout’s proposed amendment, which links with the recommendations of the working group. While the recommendation is desirable and I fully support its intent, the working group did not consider the potential impact on other areas of this Bill, including the fact that the Bill refers to the protection process and certain immigration provisions. Following extensive legal advice, I am satisfied the provisions in the Bill both ensure the intent of the recommendations and fulfil the policy of a Government that enabled such a protection to be included in the Constitution, as the Senator mentioned. The Senator’s amendments do not legally satisfy the advices the Government has been given and would have unintended consequences beyond the scope intended, which the Government cannot resolve at this Stage. The Government will continue to explore avenues to reassure all those who rightfully advocate for children’s rights that this Bill will ensure the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in the Irish protection process, ensuring that the best practice followed in our process will be embedded in the practices that result from the enactment of the Bill. While the Government was minded to accept this amendment and wished to so do, the advice of the Attorney General was to the contrary. However, the Government will not leave matters there and will work collectively with the Senator and others to ensure it can go some way towards what Senator Jillian van Turnhout is trying to achieve at a further Stage of the Bill.

I cannot agree with amendment No. 36. Accompanied children are in the care of an adult who is taking responsibility for their care and protection, while unaccompanied children are in the care of the Child and Family Agency which has adequate safeguards for the best interests of the child.

I cannot agree with amendment No. 39, as it is appropriate that this legislation provide for the taking of such fingerprints, if necessary, under appropriate supervision.

Unfortunately, I cannot agree to the proposed amendment No. 49. The appropriate safeguards in this regard already are in place and if there are doubts with regard to the age of an applicant, the Child and Family Agency is contacted immediately. Members of An Garda Síochána and immigration officers are well trained in this area and can be expected to err on the side of caution in dealing with matters in this regard.

I, unfortunately, cannot agree with amendment No. 215, as to include a general omnibus provision as suggested would amount to partial incorporation in the State of Article 33(1) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This would give rise to potentially discriminatory aspects in respect of Article 8 ECHR decision-making.

It is important initially that I refer to the statement made by the NGOs since our last debate. It was issued on 4 December and it states:

Doras Luimní, the Irish Refugee Council, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and Nasc are calling for the International Protection Bill, currently before the Seanad, to be withdrawn so that it can be properly amended by the Government and full consideration must be given to concerns expressed by organisations that work directly with asylum seekers and refugees.

The Minister of State can choose whether to take this on board but this is their latest statement. They go on to state:

Proceedings before the Seanad on 3rd December 2015 were described by some Senators as "shambolic" whilst the leader of the Seanad, Senator Maurice Cummins, has criticised the Department of Justice and questioned why the Bill was published given that 90 amendments were then made by the Department within a week. Despite the criticism and concern, a motion was passed in the Seanad yesterday to bring a guillotine on debates in the Seanad on Monday, with the effect that all amendments will fall if not passed with the exception of those submitted by the Government. The principal purpose of the Bill is to introduce a single application procedure to reduce the length of time that people applying for international protection spend in this system. Attempts have been made to bring in such a procedure for more than ten years. The Government is now attempting to steamroll this critical piece of legislation within four weeks and without proper debate and scrutiny.

Ms Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, said:

A single procedure will not cure the problems in the Irish asylum system unless there are proper safeguards in place which protect asylum seekers from cursory examination of their applications and a swift move towards deportation. The outcome of passage of the Bill, as it stands, will lead to people being at risk of being returned to persecution or serious harm and refugees separated from family members. This will be at the time of the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Ms Fiona Finn, CEO of NASC, and a member of the Government's Working Group on the Protection Process which reported at the end of June, said:

The Minister claims that the Bill implements the key recommendations of the Working Group, this is simply not true. With the exception of the single procedure, the Minister has cherry picked a handful of the more conservative recommendations and ignored any positive recommendations, such as the right to work, early identification of vulnerable applicants, and the application of the Best Interests of Child principle for all asylum seeking children. In addition, the Bill erodes rights to family reunification and brings in harsher detention measures. The single procedure is necessary to improve the protection system, but not at this cost.

Ms Leonie Kerins, Director of Doras Luimní, commented:

We are extremely concerned with the speed at which the Bill has been progressed. We see this as a deliberate attempt to prevent proper debate on the more alarming areas of the legislation. This legislation is an opportunity to address the failures of the current system and to bring Ireland in line with international practice and the Common European Asylum System in particular.

It is important to highlight this. Some Senators are huffing and puffing, but what I have outlined is the opinion of those who work in this area every day of the week. It is important to take it on board because one of the concerns I have is the change of rhetoric on this issue we have seen since last January.

Absolutely. If the Minister of State would let me finish, I might be able to clarify why I believe that is so. Senator Jilliaqn van Turnhout rightly noted that there were many criticisms of the system over the years. She outlined that she felt at that stage that there were two overarching issues. One is the issue of conditions in the centres while the other is the length of time. What we are hearing from the Government in this debate-----

The Senator cannot do that.

If the Minister of State would not badger me, I might be able to explain the point I am trying to make.

Can we, please, stick to what is at issue, which is the amendment?

If Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh spoke to the Bill-----

I would like to finish my point-----

On a point of order, to which amendments is Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh speaking? We have all spoken about the larger issues.

Unfortunately, it is very general.

The point being made here is about the rights of the children who are being protected in the Bill.

I am affording the Senator as much latitude as I can.

The point I am making based on what Senator Jillian van Turnhout said, with which I agree, is that the Government is now trying to tell us that the biggest problem is the length of time people are in the system, etc., and that we need to fast-track that. We have all agreed on that point. However, it is now toning down what is an equally significant issue, namely, the rights of children within the system and that the system is, as the Minister of State said, a form of incarceration. Will he show me what is in this Bill that will change the direct provision system apart from the length of time? What will change the conditions in which children find themselves in any of the direct provision centres where they are sitting on the floor-----

The Senator clearly does not understand what he is talking about. I am embarrassed for him.

The Minister of State may well be embarrassed for me, but I am certainly not embarrassed.

I am embarrassed for him. He does not know what he is talking about.

I cannot debate an issue with a Senator who does not know what he is talking about.

Excuse me, I know exactly what I am talking about.

The Senator does not have a clue what he is talking about.

I ask the Minister of State to retract that statement.

This is the International Protection Bill. It is not a Bill that deals with the direct provision system. I will try to explain it to the Senator in the simplest possible terms. The direct provision system is one in which a person resides while awaiting a decision. The International Protection Bill is about the system through which the person can get that decision. They are two very separate issues. If the Senator does not understand that then-----

I understand that. It is important that the Minister of State has clarified that because many people were led to believe the issue of direct provision would be dealt with in this Bill. However, the Government has chosen not do that in this legislation.

Please stick to the amendments.

Having listened to the Second Stage contribution of the Minister on this issue, I believe the Government does not believe there is an issue with the system itself and, therefore, does not have a problem with incarceration-----

Will the Senator, please, stick to the amendments?

-----and does not fully recognise the rights of the child, which are being violated every day on the Minister of State's watch.

I will be brief. I am extremely disappointed with the answers I have received. I made a considerable number of points which I asked be made known to the departmental officials and the Attorney General. I do not concur with the Minister of State's responses, but I accept his undertaking to have my points explored. I thank the departmental officials for their engagement to date.

On amendment No. 49, this is a minimal proposal in that it seeks only to raise the threshold to include a second officer-garda. I would have preferred to have this section deleted, but as I did not expect that would be acceptable, I proposed a compromise amendment. Will the Minister of State reconsider my proposal in this regard?

I appreciate that my Sinn Féin colleague, Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, has decided to quote me. I have no difficulty with anything he said but I was talking about the system of direct provision. We are clearly dealing now with the International Protection Bill. This is the second time we have sought to deal with people who are seeking asylum. Senator David Norris and I put forward the Bill on amnesty for those who are long-term in the system. That Bill would have progressed to Committee Stage had Sinn Féin not chosen to block it. Committee Stage would have provided an opportunity for amendment of that Bill. I will not be lectured by Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh about people in direct provision centres. I, too, meet them. I want to improve the situation but today we are dealing with the International Protection Bill. I want new applicants to have a single procedure. No Bill I have dealt with here has been a perfect Bill. If we wait for the perfect Bill, nothing will happen: it is not coming.

Despite all the work I did with the Children's Rights Alliance on the International Residency Protection Bill, it fell. I am not saying the Bill before us is perfect. I will constructively argue points in relation to it. Every time we raise that baseline, we have the starting point for our next engagement but Sinn Féin, in the context of its actions, appears to want to keep it on the ground. Sinn Féin will not allow us to debate the Bill, which is what I am here to do today.

I ask the Senator to, please, direct her comments through the Chair.

I will be withdrawing my amendment No. 10 with a view to resubmitting it on Report Stage. I do not agree with the guillotine but appreciate that process. While other Senators choose to continually talk about the process, I want to talk about the issues involved.

I have no problem talking about the issues. The Senator will not have an opportunity to table amendments on Report Stage.

They can be proposed in the Dáil.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question, "That section 3 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
Section 4 agreed to.
SECTION 5

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 12, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

"(3) A copy of any notice or other document that is required or authorised by or under this Act to be served on or given to a person should also be sent directly to his or her legal representative at the time of issuing the notice or document.".

I will speak to the amendment after I have heard the Minister of State's response to it.

Unfortunately, I cannot accept the amendment as the Bill already provides for the service of documents to legal representatives where appropriate.

I am disappointed with the Minister of State's response. I thought that the amendment as proposed was succinct and that the issue dealt with therein was not an insurmountable one for the Minister of State. Perhaps he might reflect on the amendment prior to conclusion of the passage of the Bill through this House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 5 agreed to.
SECTION 6
Government amendment No. 12:
In page 12, to delete lines 33 to 38, and in page 13, to delete lines 1 to 11 and substitute the following:
“(a) Dublin Convention (Implementation) Order 2000 (S.I. No. 343 of 2000);
(b) Refugee Act 1996 (Places and Conditions of Detention) Regulations 2000 (S.I. No. 344 of 2000);
(c) Refugee Act 1996 (Application Form) Regulations 2000 (S.I. No. 345 of 2000);
(d) Refugee Act 1996 (Temporary Residence Certificate) Regulations 2000 (S.I. No. 346 of 2000);
(e) Refugee Act 1996 (Travel Document) Regulations 2000 (S.I. No. 347 of 2000);
(f) Refugee Act 1996 (Appeals) Regulations 2002 (S.I. No. 571 of 2002);
(g) Refugee Act 1996 (Safe Countries of Origin) Order 2003 (S.I. No. 422 of 2003);
(h) Refugee Act 1996 (Section 22) Order 2003 (S.I. No. 423 of 2003);
(i) Refugee Act 1996 (Appeals) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 424 of 2003);
(j) Refugee Act 1996 (Safe Countries of Origin) Order 2004 (S.I. No. 714 of 2004);
(k) the Regulations of 2006;
(l) European Communities (Asylum Procedures) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 51 of 2011);
(m) Refugee Act 1996 (Asylum Procedures) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 52 of 2011);
(n) the Regulations of 2013;
(o) Refugee Act 1996 (Travel Document and Fee) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 404 of 2011);
(p) European Union (Dublin System) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 525 of 2014);
(q) European Union (Subsidiary Protection) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (S.I. No. 137 of 2015).".

This is a minor amendment which deals with the revocation of the list of statutory instruments which are part of the existing legal framework for international protection. An additional four statutory instruments are added to the list by the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 6, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 7

Amendments Nos. 13, 14, 201, 203, 204, 211, 212, 214, are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 13, line 25, after “sexual” to insert “, and domestic”.

This is a simple and effective amendment.

My amendment No. 14 seeks in page 13, line 25, after “violence” where it secondly occurs, to insert “and acts of domestic violence”. This is to ensure persons suffering domestic violence have clarity with regard to their right to apply for protection. It is quite obvious that this is a difficult area that many people seeking asylum must deal with and we have asked for it to be clarified in the Bill.

We have also tabled amendment No. 201 which proposes in page 54, line 23, after “be” to insert “unless the person ceases to be a family member because of domestic violence”. Amendment No. 203 inserts the phrase “unless the marriage or civil partnership ceases to subsist because of domestic violence”. We put forward amendment No. 214 as well to include domestic violence. We believe it adds clarity to the existing section with regard to domestic violence being a factor in defining a vulnerable person.

I totally understand the motivation behind these amendments. I do not, however, agree with them. In respect of amendments Nos. 13 and 14 this section of the Bill is in line with the EU qualifications directive. The list contained in section 7 is not exhaustive.

Amendments Nos. 201, 203, 204, 211 and 212 relate to permissions given to family members of qualified persons. The category of person referred to in the proposed amendments has other remedies available, either by changing his or her residency permission or under the Immigration Act 1999. In respect of amendment No. 214 the list contained in this section is not exhaustive. Other forms of violence or abuse will be taken into account when dealing with international protection applications from vulnerable persons. I can appreciate the sentiment behind the amendments but cannot accept them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 13, line 25, after “violence” where it secondly occurs, to insert “and acts of domestic violence”.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 17.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Máiría.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Sean D. Barrett and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.
Question, "That section 7 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
SECTION 8
Government amendment No. 15
In page 14, line 5, to delete "authorised officer" and substitute "international protection officer".
Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 15, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

"(c) membership of a particular social group includes membership of a trade union.".

The amendment relates to the definition of a membership of a particular social group. We seek the inclusion of a new subsection to include membership of a trade union in the definition. The reason this is proposed is to reinstate the previous provision in the Refugee Act 1996 which clearly states trade unions can be a particular social group for the purposes of a refugee status determination. The amendment reinstates the current position that trade unions fall within the definition of the 1951 refugee convention ground of a particular social group and, for the sake of legal certainty and consistency in approach, we recommend that the provision be retained within the Bill.

I will not accept the amendment, although I appreciate the sentiment behind it because the list provided for in the Bill is not exhaustive and is in line with the European Union asylum qualification directive.

Is it stated specifically in the EU directive that trade unions are included?

The Bill is in line with the European Union asylum qualification directive. Whatever is in it, we are in line with. The list as provided for in the Bill is not exhaustive and, therefore, it can be used a defence or a ground for asylum application.

It is not listed because having a list of such groups would indicate that any element that was omitted would not be grounds for such an application. The point is that the list in the Bill is not exhaustive, but we are in line with the European Union asylum qualification directive.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 8, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 9 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 13

Amendment No. 17 has been ruled out of order as it involves a potential charge to the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 17 not moved.
Government amendment No. 18:
In page 17, line 34, to delete "section 21" and substitute "section 21(2)".
Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 13, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I am disappointed the amendment has not been accepted, as we were looking to insert a provision whereby the person "applicable shall have access to independent legal advice and consultation" and "Such advice and consultation may include that from an appropriate non-governmental organisation". It is hard to see how this would bring a cost to the Exchequer, seeing as it specifies a non-governmental organisation that would be in a position to provide the service.

The amendment has been ruled on.

I am speaking to the section. The Irish Refugee Council has recommended that more clarity be provided with respect to where the preliminary interview is conducted and by whom. I have seen examples from Portugal. Senator Martin Conway and I visited the Portuguese refugee council at one stage and we had extensive discussions with both the legal and non-governmental organisations involved . They had an agreed protocol whereby police personnel and a person from a non-governmental organisation would both be present when the interviews were being conducted. There were agreed protocols on how it could be done and it seemed to be a very satisfactory process. If we had proper time to discuss this on Report Stage, we would like to reintroduce this amendment, or perhaps the Minister of State might like to reconsider it. Perhaps he might reconsider the 7 p.m. deadline in that respect, as this could be taken into consideration. We should examine different models that work in other European countries.

We are not accepting the amendment, as all applicants are entitled to legal assistance within the meaning of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995.

The Minister of State accused me of not knowing what I was talking about. There is a big difference between legal advice and appropriate advice from a non-governmental organisation. The two elements are referenced in the amendment.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 14

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 18, line 8, to delete "that" and substitute "or when a person self-identifies that they are".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 18, lines 10 and 11, to delete "an adult who is taking responsibility for the care and protection of the person" and substitute "a parent or legal or customary caregiver".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 21, 28, 32 to 35, inclusive, 37, 40, 54, 66, 73, 76, 78, 79, 84, 89, 92, 97 to 99, inclusive, 102, 107, 111, 112, 124, 125, 127, 135, 137, 139, 140, 145, 147, 161, 162, 178, 179, 181, 193, 194, and 216 to 219, inclusive, are drafting amendments and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 21:
In page 18, line 16, to delete "under the age of 18 years" and substitute "who have not attained the age of 18 years".

These are largely technical and drafting amendments. There are some differences between each one, which I can go through in detail, if Senators require. In general, these amendments are technical in nature and their purpose is more appropriate drafting.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 14, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 15

Amendment No. 22 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 22 not moved.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 18, lines 24 and 25, to delete “taking responsibility for the care and protection of the person” and substitute “the parent or legal or customary caregiver”.

Is the amendment being pressed?

Does the Senator wish to discuss it?

We have discussed it already.

The Senator can formally move the amendment and wait for the Minister of State's response if he wishes.

Amendment No. 23 is in page 18, lines 24 to 25, to delete the words “taking responsibility for the care and protection" and, following the word "years" to insert “the parent or legal or customary caregiver”. The rationale for the amendment is that as it stands there is a lack of clarity in the Bill on whether a minor is deemed accompanied or unaccompanied. In law and international best practice, a child is either accompanied by a parent or guardian or is an unaccompanied or separated child. Sections 14 and 15 make reference to a responsible adult which is not defined and does not accord with Irish law, unlike the term "guardian".

Under section 15, this responsible adult has extensive powers enabling him or her to make an application for international protection on behalf of a potentially unaccompanied or separated child, including the power to consent to a medical examination of a child without his or her relationship to the child having been established. The adult could be a friend, brother, sister or, equally, the child's trafficker. That is why we have serious concerns.

I can speak to amendment Nos. 22 to 25, inclusive, together?

Amendment No. 22 has been ruled out of order. The Minister of State should speak to amendment No. 23.

We cannot accept the proposed amendment as we are concerned that the suggested amendment is too narrow. A child may be accompanied by a responsible person not covered in the text of the suggested amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 18, line 29, to delete “shall be deemed to also have made” and substitute “may make”.

Will the Senator discuss the amendment now or wait for the Minister of State to respond?

I will speak to the amendment. Amendment No. 24 is in page 18, line 29, to delete “shall be deemed to also have made” and to insert "may make". The rationale for the amendment is to articulate clearly the right of the child to make a separate protection application on his or her own behalf.

I, unfortunately, cannot accept the proposed amendment. The purpose of this provision is to stop applicants making claims on behalf of their children in their own right after their own cases have been completed, in an effort to frustrate the process and delay their removal from the State.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 16.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Máiría.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Sean D. Barrett and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 25 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 25 not moved.
Government amendment No. 26
In page 18, line 37, to delete "information" and substitute "information, including legal advice".
Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 18, line 38, to delete "should" and substitute "may".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Government amendment No. 28:
In page 18, line 38, to delete "child" and substitute "person who has not attained the age of 18 years (in this subsection referred to as a "child")".
Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 19, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

"(7) Subject to sections 21 and 22, a person under the age of 18 and who is at the frontier of the State or who is in the State (whether lawfully or unlawfully) may make an application for international protection on his or her own behalf.".

Sinn Féin has concerns about the application for international protection for a separated child. I note that the Irish Refugee Council recommended that section 15(4) be replaced by a new subsection allowing a separated child to make an application for asylum on his or her own behalf. It notes that such an approach would be in accordance with Article 7 of the recast asylum procedures directive and Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as following a recommendation made in the working group's report. In this regard, the council also noted comment No. 6 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which refers to the necessary procedural safeguards required for an unaccompanied child to seek international protection.

The rationale for the amendment is that the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, should consult an independent legal representative to identify whether international protection should be applied for on behalf of a separated child. The current provision does not require the Child and Family Agency to receive independent legal advice when considering applying for protection on behalf of a separated child. The decision is left at the sole discretion of the Child and Family Agency which may operate in a manner that is contrary to the child's individual right to asylum, as guaranteed under Article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Given the implications for the child and the complexity of asylum law which encompass persecution of a child-specific nature, it is important that legal representatives with expertise in child and asylum law be consulted in making this important decision. The role of the social worker should include the facilitation of access to legal advice and the asylum procedure for separated children. The Child and Family Agency should regularly review the personal circumstances and protection needs of children in its care to establish whether an application for international protection is necessary. Such reviews should be conducted in conjunction with receiving independent legal advice from legal representatives.

I will not agree to the amendment as a person arriving at the frontier of the State who is an unaccompanied minor will be referred to the Child and Family Agency which will decide what is in his or her best interests. It will make a decision on his or her behalf based on the information and legal advice available to it.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Question, "That section 15, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
SECTION 16

Amendments Nos. 30 and 160 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 19, to delete lines 18 and 19 and substitute the following:

“(b) have access to the labour market no later than 9 months from the date when the application for international protection was lodged if a first instance decision by the Tribunal has not been taken and the delay cannot be attributed to the applicant,”.

This amendment is self-explanatory and I would like to hear the Minister of State's response. It is a reasonable request that people could join the labour market within a reasonable period and I suggest that period should be nine months.

In amendment No. 160, we propose to insert the following on page 41, between lines 25 and 26:

“(6) Where a recommendation referred to in subsection 2(b) has not been made within 9 months of the date of application, the applicant shall be granted access to the labour market.”.

As we all know, Ireland is out of step with other EU member states by depriving asylum seekers of any access to the labour market. The approach we recommend would bring Ireland more into step with its European counterparts and with Article 15 of the recast reception conditions directive. The specific modalities of accessing employment could be developed with the consultation of experts in this area. As noted by the Council of Europe Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, successful employment of asylum seekers is beneficial to host societies as it reduces the costs in providing social assistance, aids integration and, on an individual level, builds the self-worth of the person concerned.

It should be noted that the EU-UN Economic and Social Council, in its concluding observations on Ireland, reported its concern at the restrictions to employment for asylum seekers here. Although we have specified a period of nine months in our amendment, there is room in Sinn Féin policy for a shorter period. We believe that should be considered also, but we specified nine months in the amendment because that length of time is more likely to be agreed given its support among EU member states and the relevant NGOs. This is one of the fundamental issues. We have always argued for the right of asylum seekers to work and believe this is one of the promises that could be delivered on. The Minister of State said previously it needs to be delivered on and we do not see why it cannot be included in this legislation. Is it the case there is a block somewhere within the Department of Justice and Equality and that there is no intention of ever delivering on this, or it is that it does not want to deliver on it at this time?

We are calling on the Minister of State to deliver on this now. This is one of the fundamental recommendations that should be taken on board. It is international best practice and we are out of step with all the other EU member states. We intend to press the amendment.

I have huge sympathy with the amendment as laid down. With all the groups I deal with in regard to my equality brief, be they Travellers, migrants or in the gender equality or LGBT sphere, the issue of work is central to people's sense of self-worth and I agree that we are out of step with international best practice when it comes to allowing asylum seekers access to the labour market. This has led to misinformation and to a misunderstanding within the wider Irish public of the rights and entitlements of those who come to Ireland seeking protection. When they are not seen to be working and actively engaged in the labour market, there is an assumption that they are not willing to work. This is an issue we need to address.

Unfortunately, the amendments will not be accepted today because they are linked to recommendations in the working group report. An analysis of the recommendations contained in the report of the working group has been prepared for the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Sector Reform but no decision has been made on the issue. There are economic and social implications to the provision that extend outside the remit of the Bill, so we are waiting for the Cabinet committee decision on the matter.

I understand the Senator's reasons for pushing this amendment and would do the same in his position. However, the issue is not dead, it is for consideration. If we are successful in the implementation of this Bill and if we succeed in bringing about a system where people do not remain in it for more than six months, the recommendations set out in the amendment for access to the labour market within nine months would automatically follow.

I am very disappointed with the Minister of State's response that the Cabinet sub-committee is still looking at this issue. He has stated, as have Senators, that this legislation has been under consideration for a number of years, but it has been left sitting on a shelf. It is not as if this proposal has come out of the blue. The right to work is a fundamental issue in regard to asylum internationally. It is a fundamental building block that needs to be put in place. The Minister of State has visited centres and he speaks to people in direct provision centres on a regular basis.

One of the greatest frustrations of asylum seekers in direct provision is that they are not allowed to work. We have people from all kinds of backgrounds. I have met astrophysicists, bakers, hairdressers, bank managers, politicians and journalists who are living in a system in which they are not allowed to work. It is totally frustrating and some of them say it is soul destroying that this right is not given to them. The Minister of State needs to do the bold thing here. While I am sure he is being advised by the Department and the officials not to move on this, we have been waiting for it for years. It is not something that should be kicked to touch but is a fundamental issue for all the asylum seekers within the system. It needs to be acted upon and the Minister of State should push it himself to make sure that it is pushed through as part of this legislation.

I have a lot of sympathy with Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh on this matter, having spoken to people within the system. There are very talented people who would make a huge contribution to our society. I have, however, also been most impressed with the way in which the Minister of State has dealt with this issue head on since he took up his position a year and a half ago. Not a lot happened for eight or ten years or however long. Now, on balance, a lot is happening, perhaps not at the speed we would like but, to be fair, at least it is happening. The Bill is a significant step in the right direction and I urge Senator Denis O'Donovan and others not to press the amendment and to have good faith with the Minister of State on this aspect.

I imagine that one of the surest ways of improving integration is work. People would then be in touch with the community on a day-to-day basis and, in a work situation they would become aware of many other issues and would feel part of their adopted communities. It is vital that the issue be at the top of the priority list. I take the points made by others also.

The whole question of self-esteem is significant and the early months are particularly important in that regard. If one is left in limbo, there is a feeling one is not wanted. That is not what we are trying to achieve here. I would support the other comments asking that the Minister of State, who is a compassionate Minister, would try to rethink this aspect. It has been there for so long and if we sideline it again it is going to create further problems.

Integration is the key concern for all of us. Knowing the history of our own emigrants in other countries, we have always seen that they tended to integrate and the opportunities were there for them. So many of the Irish were exceptionally successful in the countries they adopted. We have a lot to learn from our own history in that regard. Now we have the opportunity to invest confidence in the new immigrants who are coming into this country.

As the Minister of State said, we would have sympathy with what is being proposed in this amendment. I very much take the comments on board. However, we need to be very careful about the distinction between a right to work and an obligation to work. I am very conscious that in some jurisdictions, migrants' rights to security, unemployment benefits and other benefits such as health, education and so forth are tied to the obligation to work. We need to be very clear on what we are talking about in terms of giving people a right to be part of a workforce.

In the interim period between bringing about the type of system the Minister of State has indicated he would like and the position we are in, we need to put a lot of effort into building the capacity of migrants who come into this country, not just of those who are currently in the system and have been for many years, which is obviously a very clear position, but also of those who will arrive in the next few years. It is very important that we acknowledge and build on their capacity. We must work hard to ensure they do not find themselves in low-paid, insecure work but that they find the kind of work they have been trained to do in their countries of origin. This must be an absolute priority for Members.

I must respond because, while Members have heard many expressions of sympathy, the time for sympathy is over and the time for action is now. It is a little disingenuous to state that there are people within the system who might be abused or whatever in work scenarios. What the right to work confers literally is a right to work. It does not confer a job or force people into employment and it does not take away a job from anybody else. It simply means the person who is seeking asylum has the right to compete for a job in the same way as anybody else. This is an absolutely fundamental international human right that is being denied to asylum seekers in this country. Moreover, we have been denying it for a long time, since long before the present Administration came to office. It is a fundamental bedrock of international human rights that must be put in place. We are way out of kilter with the rest of Europe and best international practice on this issue. The Minister of State is aware of this and when one can see that very little has been acted upon until now, promises of what might be done in the future do not cut it with people who are in the asylum system. This right to work should be there now. There is no reason it cannot be included in the Bill and it should be included as a matter of urgency.

I apologise for being so delayed - I had an urgent dental appointment - but I was astonished to hear suggestions that people might be compelled to work. There is no suggestion from this side of the House that there should be any compulsion for people to work. It is about the right to work. I am rather sad to observe the Minister of State who I know to be a decent and open-hearted man coming into the Chamber to defend these completely indefensible positions. The Irish Refugee Council which was consulted about this issue made a series of recommendations, only a few of the most conservative of which were cherry-picked. I apologise to Members if it already has been read into the record, but the recommendation made on this issue was:

[T]hat provision for access to the labour market for protection applicants who are awaiting a first instance decision for nine months or more, and who have cooperated with the protection process (under the relevant statutory provisions), should be included in the ... International Protection Bill and should be commenced when the single procedure is operating efficiently. This recommendation ... takes account of the fact that, under the current statutory arrangements, first instance decisions in respect of refugee status and subsidiary protection do not (in the normal course) issue within nine months at present.

That is clear and unambiguous. There is nothing about people being forced to work or anything remotely like it. The council suggested an amendment, into which I will not go because I am sure it has been tabled and it may be one of the amendments Members are considering at present. However, the Irish Refugee Council has suggested amendments to the section that would permit people to work. I consider such suggestions to be astonishing.

I must state, as a matter of general principle, that this is what happens when one gets legislation that is hurried in draftsmanship, which obviously is what has happened given the number of amendments, and rushed through the Seanad in the couple of weeks before Christmas. I have been a Member for nearly 30 years and have seen this every single bloody year and I am fed up to my back teeth with it. It is bad legislative procedure and is bad for democracy. However, I believe this is the worst Members ever have seen. There was a previous Bill that had 300 amendments. It is just dreadful.

I will not go on because I am sure Members already have spoken about it, but, on the amendment, it seems clear that people should have the right to work. That was the recommendation of the Irish Refugee Council. Why have such a council and why bother consulting it if the Government does not take a blind bit of notice of what it proposes?

I introduced a Bill to address the system of direct provision and the Minister gave undertakings about it. It would be a dreadful comment on our society if greater rights are provided for asylum seekers who are brought in under this scheme than for those people who already are here and in direct provision centres. This point also must be addressed. I genuinely acknowledge that the Minister of State has sincere and deep feelings about this matter, but really these issues must be addressed. Members only have a short time left, as it was being suggested today on the wireless that the Government might call the election straightaway and not return after Christmas. I do not know whether that is true, but if it is, Members certainly are dealing with a rushed package and that simply is bad. Perhaps the Government does not trust whatever incoming Government may follow it to deal with these matters.

I beg your pardon.

There you are. That is classic, direct and decent honesty from the Minister of State. That is why we are rushing it through; it is because the Government does not trust the incoming Government. That is lamentable because one of the points made in the briefing I read was that by rushing this through, we could include damaging material in legislation because it is not properly thought through. That is all I will say for the moment, but I feel strongly about this issue.

I will speak to the amendment again. On the one hand, there is a suggestion that we have not done anything while, on the other, there is a suggestion this is being rushed through. As Senators have said, I assumed this position in July 2014. Since then, regardless of the number of visits I have made to individual centres, we made two cast-iron commitments in the statement of Government priorities at the time. One was the enactment of a protection Bill. Time is running out for the Oireachtas. We could easily say we have a range of other things we need to work on and this is something we just have to leave. That would not be the responsible thing to do. I completely accept that people may be frustrated by the length of time and the number of amendments we have to go through on a Monday in the Seanad before the Bill goes to the Dáil. However, as a person with responsibility in this area, I feel keenly that we should do it, take responsibility for it and ensure this Government does it. I hope we will be in a position to form a Government in the next Oireachtas, but I cannot be sure about that. While the Minister and I have responsibility for this area, it is our duty to oversee legislation that will take a much more humane approach to people who come to this land and seek protection.

The second point relates to the absolute commitment we made in terms of direct provision. People are again suggesting that the direct provision report on the protection process is on a shelf somewhere. It is being implemented. In respect of the quote that the more conservative recommendations are being implemented-----

The Irish Refugee Council wrote it.

-----we do not have hierarchies of recommendations. We go through recommendations and take every single one of them very seriously and-----

For the Minister of State's information, it was the Irish Refugee Council which came up with that phrase.

We are implementing the report and its recommendations.

The Government is not.

If Senators want to join me in visiting the centres I visit, they will see the difference that is being made, the percentage of applications that are being processed in a favourable manner, the number of deportation orders that have been quashed and the fact the implementation of the working group's report is being felt in centres throughout the country by people affected by this. There has been a 60% increase in the number of applicants getting leave to remain since July while more than 80 deportation orders have been revoked. The implementation of the working group report is a priority for the Government. It is the only game in town and it would be a derogation of duty if we did not oversee the implementation of the Bill which will ensure we do not have people languishing in centres such as direct provision centres because their applications will be processed in a speedy fashion.

On the amendment, I completely accept and understand where Senators are coming from. This is an issue I will pursue, not in the context of the Bill but outside it. I appreciate the sentiments that have been expressed. We are outside the European norm when it comes to workplace rights in terms of those seeking protection in this country. To suggest that by voting down the amendment, we are somehow rejecting the right to work does not stand up.

It is also important to clarify that the Minister of State has said 26 of the recommendations made in the report are being implemented. There are more than 170-----

There is more than just this Bill when it comes to the working group's report.

That is all I said. I do not know what the Minister of State's issue is.

I am pre-empting the Senator's-----

I would prefer if the Minister of State did not pre-empt what I am going to say because I am pre-empting something he has agreed-----

I have a good guess.

-----which are the recommendations on page 211 of the working group's report. Again, it relates to the cherry-picking of the recommendations and the fact that only 26 out of 170 have been picked. One of the fundamental ones concerns the right to work.

The working group stated:

Having regard to the foregoing, the Working Group recommends:

Provision for access to the labour market for protection applicants who are awaiting a first instance decision for nine months or more and who have co-operated with the protection process (under the relevant statutory provisions), should be included in the International Protection Bill and should be commenced when the single procedure is operating efficiently. This recommendation takes account of the fact that, under the current statutory arrangements, first instance decisions in respect of refugee status and subsidiary protection do not (in the normal course) issue within nine months at present.

Any permission given to access the labour market should continue until the final determination of the protection claim.

A protection applicant who has the right to access the labour market and is successful in finding employment, and who wishes to remain in Direct Provision, should be subject to a means test to determine an appropriate contribution to his/her accommodation and the other services provided to him/her.

That is the recommendation and it could not be clearer. According to the report, this recommendation should be included in the Bill before the House.

The Minister of State established the working group and appointed its members, including officials of his Department and representatives from the NGOs that were not opposed to the Bill. The Minister of State and the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, launched the report with great fanfare and said they were going to implement its recommendations. I take it they agree with all of the recommendations of the working group. The view of the working group is that the measure to which I refer should be included in the Bill. It could not be clearer. For the Government to be obfuscating and beating around the bush on this with a view to it being examined by another committee is a cover-up for the fact that it does not want to implement the recommendation. If it did, it would be included in the Bill. I believe it is a good recommendation that needs to be taken on board. Sinn Féin will be pushing the amendment to a vote.

With regard to the system of direct provision, I understand there have been some ameliorations, but the situation is not being addressed globally. It is not being addressed in the way proposed in the Bill I presented to the House, which would have progressed had Sinn Féin not got cold feet at the last minute.

The Minister of State said more than one quarter of the recommendations had been taken on board. The view of the group which made the recommendations is that the more conservative ones have been taken on board, including the recommendation in relation to the single procedure. Everybody welcomes single procedure, but it is dependent on a series of surrounding clauses. In the view of the group the single procedure will not cure the problems in the Irish asylum system unless there are proper safeguards in place which protect asylum seekers from cursory examination of their applications and a swift move towards deportation. However, that is one of the recommendations the Minister of State has taken on board.

In regard to the Minister of State's question as to who said the more conservative recommendations had been taken on board, that is the view of the Irish Refugee Council. The latter stated that, with the exception of the single procedure which I have already dealt with and which is ineffective unless certain other attendant matters are dealt with - these are not dealt with in the Bill - the Minister had cherry-picked a handful of the more conservative recommendations and ignored positive recommendations such those relating to the right to work, which is the recommendation we are discussing, early identification of vulnerable applicants and the application of the best-interests-of-the-child principle in respect of all asylum-seeking children. In addition, the Bill erodes rights to family reunification and introduces harsher detention measures.

A number of groups working in this area have called for the withdrawal of the Bill. These are the people working at the coalface. I regret to have to say it, particularly, to the Minister of State, but I think this Bill should be withdrawn. The Minister of State will obviously disagree with me, but I think the Bill should be withdrawn and recast. Any Bill that requires such a galaxy of amendments to it by the Government at a late stage calls its validity into question. Is the problem that there are not sufficient draftspersons? An additional €3 billion was found lying in a drawer somewhere the other day. Surely it would not cost a great deal to recruit additional draftspersons. We obviously need more draftspersons and, perhaps, better ones than those who are currently in place. Let us spend a bit of money. Let the Government take note of this issue.

I guarantee, as I did on the previous Bill, that this House will be disruptive, awkward and difficult. I know that the debate on the Bill will be guillotined. It is a disgrace to guillotine the debate on a Bill such as this, which is so important in terms of our international standing. It is terrible. The Minister of State is a good, decent man and a good politician for whom I have great respect, but in this instance he is on the wrong ticket.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 14.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Máiría.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 31 and 38 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed?

We will proceed with amendment No. 31.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 19, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

"(iii) reporting requirements shall be subject to review taking into account the personal circumstances of an applicant seeking international protection and maintaining flexibility in relation to those personal circumstances".

I am not trying to be vexatious but I do not see any logical reason for grouping those two amendments. Amendment No. 31 proposes to insert the following lines on page 19, between lines 29 and 30, "reporting requirements shall be subject to review taking into account the personal circumstances of an applicant seeking international protection and maintaining flexibility in relation to those personal circumstances". This, again, is a practical amendment. It has been recommended that some flexibility be maintained in reporting requirements and the possibility to periodically review the reporting requirements depending on the personal circumstances of a protection applicant. For example, if an applicant for international protection is heavily pregnant, the reporting requirements to present at a specified Garda station should be lifted. I am aware of an example in this regard. I do not want to indicate the area where it took place because I do not want to reveal who are the people involved. I refer to the case of a number of school-going children who are involved in a sports club locally as part of an effort to integrate with the local community. They are particularly good and it is a high-performance club. As part of their activities, children from the club will travel to another European country to take part in an international sports competition. However, the two young people to whom I refer are precluded from travelling as a result of the issue to which amendment No. 31 relates. This is something that can frustrate those seeking asylum, particularly younger people. There is a great deal of talk about treating all of the children equally, but we do not see this happening in practice. There are situations where people find it very difficult to travel and can only do so at the behest of the Minister. This is a small but important amendment. I cannot see what issue the Minister of State would have with this. I am sure he will take it on board and possibly accept it in the good faith in which it is being put forward.

We are dealing with amendment No. 31.

Yes, amendment No. 31.

We are not dealing with amendment No. 38.

I heard Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh's cogent arguments about disassociating the two. I do not see any reason not to accept the amendment. The Minister of State has not yet said that he is utterly rejecting it. I ask him to consider it. I am here this evening. I would really like to have been able to talk about the issues that were discussed earlier this afternoon but I had a long-standing dental appointment. A Member of the Seanad can have a long-standing dental appointment and other people can be kept out of the House for important matters because of particular circumstances.

There have been cases where the matters to which the amendment relates have arisen, including those of a pregnant woman and somebody involved in international sport. These exceptional matters need to be considered. For that reason, it seems that reporting requirements ought to take into account the personal circumstances of an applicant. I wonder whether this Government will take on board amendment No. 31. To my astonishment, it has refused to accept amendments relating to taking the best interests of children into account. I must say to Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, through the Chair, that if the Government is not prepared to take the best interests of children into account, it is a little naive to expect it to have regard to the personal circumstances of an applicant because there seems to be something ruthless about the way this legislation is being barged through.

I am not sure how many, if any, of these amendments have been accepted. Can anyone tell me if any of them have been accepted so far?

None has been accepted. This is unnecessary if it is simply from a point of view of pushing the legislation through. My understanding is that this legislation is such an inordinate shambles that it is proposed to introduce further amendments in the Dáil and that it will then be returned to this House.

Consequently, there is no technical reason such as not wishing to be bothered to send it back down and so forth, as the Bill will be bouncing backwards and forwards like a yo-yo. As there is no reason for this, I strongly support this amendment.

In response to Senator David Norris, the rights of the child are implicit and explicit throughout this Bill. As for amendment No. 31, I again revert to the entire point of the Bill, which is that someone who is seeking asylum in this country, be that an asylum seeker or someone seeking protection, will, as a result of the Bill, be in the system for six months. Therefore, all these reasonable issues that have been raised will only be for a relatively short time and not the years and years as in the current position.

Someone can get pregnant within six months.

Members are giving examples from the current position which is not working, as opposed to the position the Government hopes and expects will work when somebody is in the system for a number of months only. I also note it is very seldom that an applicant is made subject to reporting requirements and there normally is a good reason for this. In practice, An Garda Síochána already takes account of the person's circumstances in this regard.

The Government cannot agree to the Senator's amendment as the existing provision adequately balances the needs of the State and the circumstances of the individual. However, to again underline the point, in the Bill the Government seeks to ensure the avoidance of people spending years in the system. Instead, they will spend six months in the system and, therefore, all those other circumstances being raised by Members will not be as big an issue because the length of time will be reduced greatly.

I seek clarification on the interesting point the Minister of State has raised. Is he stating that once the single procedure is introduced, all applicants will be determined within a six-month period and, therefore, within six months applicants either will be given asylum, refugee status, leave to remain, etc. or will be in a position whereby they will be deported and, in consequence, people will not be continuing in direct provision-style accommodation thereafter? Is the Minister of State making the point that once the Bill is passed, this issue will be solved overnight and any new applications will be determined within a six-month period and, therefore, there will not be an issue in the future? Is that what the Minister of State is suggesting?

As I understand it, the Minister of State has stated this already is catered for in that personal circumstances already are taken into account.

In that case, this removes any reason for not stating it specifically and, therefore, there is no reason for the Government to stand against the amendment. If this already informally is the case, let Members, as legislators, formalise it. The Minister of State has indicated this, in working parlance, is what happens on the ground. Therefore, let us formalise it and give it concrete form in legislative terms.

In another point, I note one example provided by Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh was of a pregnant woman. She could be six months pregnant when she came in here and could be having the child three months later. My understanding of gynaecology and obstetrics is limited in the extreme but even I understand the human reproductive term. Another point is that the Minister of State stated a couple of times this will all be through within six months and will be a limited period. In some ways, this is welcome if it will be an efficient system but it also gives rise to serious concerns about whether it will give reasonable time for manoeuvre for appeal and for all the circumstances to be taken into account. One does not desire a situation in which everyone happily states they will have six months after which they are gone, bang, back to Iraq or somewhere where they are butchered. If one accepts, with these reservations, that the six-month period is a good idea - I do not challenge the Minister of State but merely seek information - will he point to a place in the Bill in which this six-month period is stated? I have not seen it but perhaps, as I get older, I am missing things. I acknowledge this is an objective of the Minister of State, who is a good and efficient Minister. I am aware he hopes it will be a period of six months, as do all Members, but can I point out that the direct provision arrangements were introduced 15 or 20 years ago and were meant to be for a limited period? Initially, they were meant to be for approximately six months but here they are, 20 years later, still in place. Consequently, six months can become 20 months or 20 years quite easily. Again, will the Minister of State inform me as to why the Government considers it necessary to oppose something that is happening on the ground anyway to the apparent satisfaction and appreciation of the Government? Can the Minister of State point me to somewhere in the Bill where it is made explicit that the issue will be resolved within six months?

It is not specified in the Bill that applications will be processed within six months. There is no specific timeline in the Bill but the entire intent of the Bill is to ensure the putting in place of a single procedure to avoid a repeat of what I might suggest is the current chaotic system.

Therefore, six months is a notional idea.

The intent is for six months. I totally accept the Senator's point that the system of direct provision, for example, was supposed to be a six-month holding measure, but it has turned into a long-term solution, if one likes. It is just like how, when rent allowance initially was brought in, it was meant to be an emergency payment for people at risk of homelessness but has turned into a 12 year or 15 year social housing provision. The intent is that a new application will be processed in the first instance within six months and then processed to finality within 12 months. As that is the intent, we no longer will have these six, seven, eight, nine or ten year scenarios. The entire purpose of the Bill is to ensure the provision of a much faster and more transparent process.

People have suggested unfairly that the Government's intention is that it will be quicker to deport somebody. As for asylum applications, asylum is a sacred status that is afforded to an individual when given by any country. If a person is awarded asylum status in Ireland or any other country, it is an internationally-recognised sacred status. Consequently, it is not something that is given out lightly. However, in any application process, some people succeed and others do not. That is the system as it will be anywhere in the world and it will be the same system here in Ireland. Some people will be successful and others will not. However, the intention of the Bill is that an application will be processed in the first instance within six months and to finality within 12 months in order that people will not be languishing in a centre or within the system for a prolonged time. I also remind Members that while approximately half of those who seek asylum in Ireland are in direct provision centres, approximately half are not. While Members keep returning again and again to the issue of direct provision, and I understand the issues are linked, it is not central to the Bill, which is dealing with a new application process. Approximately 4,000 of those people are outside the direct provision system in Ireland and, therefore, one must be aware this legislation is for every applicant who comes into Ireland and it will be a much more speedy process, which is what the single procedure is all about.

What the Minister of State is intimating certainly would be welcome. Again, if one goes through the report of the working group on the protection process in respect of the issues regarding those who already are in the system, paragraph 3.128 is a recommendation for persons awaiting decisions at the protection process and leave to remain stages for five years or more. It states: "All persons awaiting decisions at the protection process and leave to remain stages who have been in the system for five years or more from the date of initial application should be granted leave to remain or protection status as soon as possible and within a maximum of six months from the implementation start date subject to the three conditions set out below". It then goes on to discuss the issue of persons with a deportation order and the recommendation outlined in paragraph 3.166 pertains to what Members are discussing, namely, the new single procedure to be implemented. It states: "Once the single procedure has been enacted, to avoid a repeat of the circumstances which gave rise to the establishment of the Working Group, that the same principle and mechanisms aimed at addressing the situation of persons currently in the system for five years or more should apply for persons who have cooperated with the process in line with statutory obligations". I take it this is the six month period the Minister of State is discussing.

If the working group included it in its recommendations, both Ministers signed off on those recommendations and the Department that was party to the debate agree with the six-month figure, why will the Minister of State not put it in the legislation? It seems it is the only way for the Minister of State who does not know who will be sitting in his chair after the next election to ensure it is upheld. There have been lots of promises here on all kinds of legislation and Ministers come and go, with due respect, but legislation is legislation. If the Minister of State is absolutely determined and wants to table an amendment to the effect that applications should be determined within six months, we on this side of the House would support it. It would be welcome.

Is Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh pressing the amendment?

I would like a response from the Minister of State on the point I just raised, if possible.

I will not be responding further.

The Minister of State has nothing further to say.

Is he saying he will not include the six month figure?

It is not usual in legislation of this nature to have timelines installed.

It is not what is generally done. That is the whole point of the Bill. There would be no point in having a Bill with a single procedure unless we were trying to speed up the entire process and make the system work an awful lot better. The biggest problem that people come back to us with repeatedly is the length of time. The whole point of this Bill is the length of time; therefore, to suggest we include a definite timeline in the Bill is wrong because that is not how legislation works. The purpose of the Bill is to deal with the length of time issue.

Of the 173 recommendations in the working group report, 78 relate to the protection process, 26 of which are dealt with in the Bill, 51 relate to the system of direct provision and 44 relate to other supports. We are implementing the direct provision report on the protection process.

With respect to the Minister of State, I have seen loads of legislation come through here with different dates, times and specifications included. The Water Services Bill included an awful lot of them on the payment of water charges. There were certainly timeframes included in that Bill and it is something that should be included in this one. It is part of the recommendation of the working group. Why would it be left out if it has been recommended by the working group and has been agreed to by all parties in the working group, including the Minister of State's officials? We do not want to see slippage in the issue and the only way to ensure whichever Minister is in the chair has to abide by that six-month rule is to put it in the legislation. I cannot understand why the Minister of State will not put it in. Will he advise us why he has been told to leave it out?

The amendment is not directly related to the six months, although it is an important point. I asked the Minister of State to elucidate on whether there was a figure of six months included anywhere in the Bill and he very honestly and directly told the House that it was nowhere to be found in the Bill. It is a wish and hope on the part of those involved in the Bill. He has also admitted that it may not be as rapid as that but has not really answered the question which is, if, as he says, it is standard practice on the ground, why is there any reason to oppose it being included in the Bill? It is something that is currently happening or will be happening as a matter of course. I see absolutely no reason to reject the amendment, particularly as there is not, as there sometimes is, the political reality of not wanting the Bill to go back to the Dáil and all the rest of it, although this is a Seanad Bill.

There are various political reasons for not wanting to accept amendments. I have been in many situations in which there were a huge number of amendments to legislation put forward from this side of the House and not a single one was accepted, even though the Government of the day accepted their logic. I expect there will be a vote on this amendment and I will certainly be voting for it unless the Minister of State can find it in his heart to accept it and put the practice into law. That is good law.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 17.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Máiría.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
Tellers: Tá, Senators David Cullinane and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.
Government amendment No. 32:
In page 19, line 38, to delete "Subsections (3)(a), (b) and (d)" and substitute "Paragraphs (a), (b) and (d) of subsection (3)".
Amendment put and declared carried.
Question proposed: "That section 16, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Does Senator David Norris wish to speak to the section?

I do. Section 16 also concerns the question of children. For that reason, I will be voting against it, as it stands.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 17
Government amendment No. 33:
In page 20, line 10, to delete "certificate, although given," and substitute "certificate".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 34:
In page 20, lines 14 and 15, to delete "shall for so long as the certificate remains valid be deemed" and substitute "shall, for so long as the certificate remains valid, be deemed".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 35:
In page 20, lines 20 and 21, to delete "forges, or fraudulently alters, or assists in forging or fraudulently altering, or procures the forging or fraudulent alteration of a certificate" and substitute the following:
"forges, fraudulently alters, assists in forging or fraudulently altering or procures the forging or fraudulent alteration of, a certificate".
Amendment agreed to.
Question, "That section 17, as amended, stand part of the Bill", put and declared carried.
SECTION 18

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 20, line 27, after "understand" to insert ", including, where appropriate, an information leaflet written in a child friendly manner".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Government amendment No. 37:
In page 21, lines 3 and 4, to delete "an interview under section 34" and substitute "a personal interview".
Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 21, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

"(h) the procedures on how to assert entitlements in law.".

The statement provided for the applicant under this provision should include information on how to assert entitlements in law, for example, on how to consult a legal representative. A failure to provide information on how one can access one's entitlements makes them meaningless in practice.

This is to be added to the list of requirements for the statement which is to be given to an applicant by the Minister as soon as practicable after receipt by him or her of an application. It is important asylum seekers have this information and it should be provided for in the Bill.

I cannot agree with the Senators’ amendment as all applicants have access to legal assistance within the meaning of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995.

The Minister of State has missed the point. Legal aid is one matter but the procedures on how to assert entitlements is a different one. This is about the information an applicant should be provided with and, accordingly, it should be provided in a statement. There is a significant difference between a statement given to somebody about their rights and a statement on how to assert their entitlements. Considering someone might be coming to this country from a different background, it is important to give them as much information as possible. Those on the front line working with asylum seekers feel there is a lacuna in this area and this information should be made available to asylum seekers when they receive this statement.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Question, "That section 18, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
SECTION 19

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 21, lines 22 to 25, to delete all words from and including “years,” in line 22 down to and including “her” in line 25 and substitute “years”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Government amendment No. 40:
In page 22, lines 10 to 12, to delete all words from and including “Regulation” in line 10 down to and including “Regulation,” in line 12 and substitute “the Dublin Regulation”.
Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 9.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Máiría.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Sean D. Barrett and David Norris.
Amendment declared carried.
Section 19, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION

Amendments Nos. 41 to 48, inclusive, 50 to 52, inclusive, 59 and 60 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed. It is also to be noted that if amendment No. 41 is agreed to, amendment No. 46 cannot be moved.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 22, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“20. (1) An immigration officer or a member of the Garda Síochána shall not detain a person for the sole reason that he or she is an applicant for international protection.”.

The section deals with the power to detain and arrest without warrant. The purpose is to reinstate the power to detain, as stated in section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended. The amendment would balance the State's right to regulate its borders and control immigration with the individual's right to liberty and to seek protection under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It would also reinstate the power to detain, as stated in section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended. The power to arrest without warrant represents a significant and unnecessary expansion of the State's power to detain under the Refugee Act 1996, as amended. The power to arrest without warrant is only given to An Garda Síochána in a number of limited circumstances, including where a person is suspected of having committed an arrestable offence that carries a penalty of five years or more, or in a case of suspected drinking and driving under the Road Traffic Acts.

Section 21, as formulated in the Bill, will put certain immigration-related offences on a par with those with which many people in this sphere consider unacceptable. The aim of the proposed amendment is to prevent arbitrary detention and seek to protect the applicant's right to liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

I reserve the right to speak on the other amendments included in the group after the Minister of State's response.

I support the amendment. First, the section grants the power of arrest without a warrant, not just to a garda but also, unusually, to an immigration officer. Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh's amendment would leave intact all of the grounds already contained in the Bill, apart from the one to which he has taken exception which is implicit but not stated. In other words, accepting the amendment would still mean that an immigration officer or a member of An Garda Síochána, without even having to obtain a warrant, could arbitrarily arrest somebody who:

(a) poses a threat to public security or public order in the State,

(b) has committed a serious non-political crime outside the State,

(c) has not made reasonable efforts to establish his or her identity,

(d) intends to leave the State and without lawful authority enter another state, or

(e) without reasonable cause—

(i) has destroyed his or her identity or travel document, or

(ii) is or has been in possession of a forged, altered or substituted identity document.

I also question paragraph (d). I would like a further explanation from the Minister of State of the wording that a person can be arrested if he or she "intends to leave the State and without lawful authority enter another state".

How strong does that intention have to be? Does he or she not have to show some clear, tangible reason for this suspicion? As it stands, it looks to me as if an immigration officer could arrest somebody and simply say, "I think you are intending to leave the State and enter another state without lawful authority." There is nothing to stop them in some circumstances from leaving the State. This could be done on just a suspicion and I am worried about that too.

The amendment would prevent an immigration officer or a garda without a warrant arresting or detaining somebody for the sole reason that he or she is an applicant for international protection. Will the Minister of State explain what, if anything, he has against this? In other words, if immigration officers arrest somebody just because he or she is an applicant for international protection, that means they could arrest any of these people. Being an applicant for international protection is not a reason for arresting somebody. This is getting very close to harassment and to racism. It is like when they hauled some unfortunate Dublin born artist off the Belfast train years ago because he was black. I, therefore, strongly support the amendment.

It refers to the "sole reason". Can the Minister of State defend the right of an immigration officer without a warrant arresting people solely because they are applicants? It will become an offence to become an applicant. This is nonsense and I ask him to consider this seriously.

I cannot agree to the proposed changes as section 20 clearly provides for the circumstances in which an applicant can be detained. Section 20(1) states:

(a) poses a threat to public security or public order in the State,

(b) has committed a serious non-political crime outside the State,

(c) has not made reasonable efforts to establish his or her identity,

(d) intends to leave the State and without lawful authority enter another state, or

(e) without reasonable cause—

(i) has destroyed his or her identity or travel document, or

(ii) is or has been in possession of a forged, altered or substituted identity document.

The section makes it clear that a person cannot be detained for the sole reason that he or she is an applicant for international protection. Specific reasons are laid out in section 20 on page 22, as I have outlined. A person cannot be arrested for the sole reason that he or she is an applicant for protection. It is not provided for in the Bill, nor should it be.

Therefore, these are the sole and exclusive grounds for arrest.

The garda or immigration officer has to comply with one of the reasons as stated in the Bill. The very suggestion somebody would be arrested for the sole reason of seeking asylum is preposterous.

Would the Minister of State be inclined to say a few words about section 20(1)(d) and how somebody knows an applicant intends to leave the State or how strong is the intention?

That is the determination that we give the garda to make a reasonable case in that regard.

They do not have to because they do not have to get a warrant. They can arrest summarily. How does a garda know that somebody intends to leave the State and enter another illegally? Presumably, he is at an airport, port or train station but how does he know that an applicant will enter another state illegally? The applicant could just be visiting family.

In all these cases, gardaí will have to show reasonable cause. This is what happens in all these instances. They cannot arrest somebody without reasonable cause whereby one of the listed criteria is met. Without reasonable cause, they would be outside the remit of the Bill. They have to establish reasonable cause.

I still have concerns about this. There are other amendments involved. Amendment No. 44 relates to altered and-or substituted identity documents. This aims to prevent attaching a penalty to a means by which many asylum seekers and refugees access protection in accordance with Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The insertion of "altered or substituted identity document" expands the categories of documentation grounds for detaining a person. This is wider than that contained in the Refugee Act 1996, which only contains reference to forged documents under section 9(7)(f) of that Act. The IRC receives reports that agents and smugglers who facilitate the transfer of asylum seekers to the State force them to hand over their own original identity documents in return for substituted identity documents, as defined by section 20(18) of the Bill. The subsection, as drafted, would give immigration officers and An Garda Síochána the power to arrest persons in such circumstances and detain them. This is contrary to the State's obligations under article 31 of the Refugee Convention. If the amendment was inserted in the Bill, the definition of "substituted identity document" under section 20(18) would also be deleted. Smugglers and traffickers often force people with protection needs to exchange their original documents for substitute documents as defined under section 20(18). Making it an offence to possess, or to have possessed, such documents would unreasonably penalise persons who have no choice but to rely on such smugglers and-or traffickers to escape persecution and-or to reach a place of safety in their country of origin.

The purpose of the amendment No. 47 is to reinstate the District Court's power to detain under Refugee Act 1996, as amended. A total of 21 days is more than double the time the District Court was empowered to detain an applicant under section 9(10) of the Act. The State's power to interfere and-or restrict an individual's right to liberty must be proportionate and reasonable. An individual's right to liberty is protected by article 40.4 of the Constitution, article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Restricting or otherwise interfering with that right is a matter of the utmost seriousness. Section 20(3)(a) would almost certainly result in persons with protection needs being detained for periods of up to three weeks renewable pending the determination of their application for protection. This is a disproportionate and unreasonable interference with the individual's right to liberty and, moreover, with his or her to access protection. The IRC is concerned that such periods of detention would hamper and-or otherwise impact on his or her application for protection and that it would aggravate post-traumatic stress disorder and related symptoms of trauma.

Amendment No. 50 relates to arrest without warrant for failure to comply with conditions. This reinstates the power to detain given to members of An Garda Síochána under the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, while limiting unnecessary expansion of its power to arrest without warrant. As I recommended on the previous amendments, the power to arrest without a warrant is an extraordinary measure. Section 29 seeks to expand the categories of persons An Garda Síochána may arrest without warrant from section 21, which is contrary to the right of liberty.

With regard to amendment No. 42, I cannot agree to the deletion of the reference to “arrest without warrant” at the start of section 20. This is a necessary first step and provision is also made for a person having been so detained to be brought before the District Court as soon as is practicable. The court would have to be satisfied as to the justification of the detention.

I cannot agree to amendment No. 43. The use of the words “him or her” is fine in this instance and avoids repetition.

I cannot agree to the proposed amendment to section 20.

In respect of amendment No. 44, I cannot agree to the removal of the words “altered or substituted” or to the removal of the words “or substituted” from section 20(1)(e) as suggested in Senator O'Donovan’s amendment No. 45. These issues that can arise in the context of travel documentation need to be comprehended by the Bill. I could continue but essentially I am not agreeing to amendments Nos. 46 and 47.

I thought I might have got a further response on the other amendments but if the Minister of State does not want to respond, that is his prerogative. In amendment No. 51, we suggest removing “, and any other necessary modifications” to provide clarity to applicants and ensure legal certainty. Article 38 of the Constitution provides that "No person shall be tried on any criminal charge save in due course of law." A person charged with an offence is entitled to certainty about the law and may only be charged with offences existing at the time of his arrest. Section 20(10), as formulated in the Bill, is vague and uncertain, denying an applicant his or entitlements under the law. It is also incompatible with the principle of the rule of law which presupposes that those who are affected by a law should be able to ascertain its meaning and effect.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 7; Níl, 18.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Máiría.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
Tellers: Tá, Senators David Norris and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.
SECTION 20

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 22, lines 15 and 16, to delete “arrest without warrant an applicant and”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 22, line 16, to delete “him or her” and substitute “an applicant”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 22, line 26, to delete “, altered or substituted”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 45 and 46 not moved.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 22, line 35, to delete “21 days” and substitute “10 days”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Government amendment No. 48:
In page 23, line 16, to delete “release” and substitute the following:
“release, and a reference in this section to a condition referred to in subsection (3)(b) shall be construed as including a reference to such a condition as varied or added to under this subsection”.
Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 49 in the name of Senator Jillian van Turnhout is being withdrawn.

No explanation has been given as to why it is being withdrawn. It seems to be a very good amendment.

I am withdrawing it because I have received a commitment from the Minister that it will be considered in the Dáil and I am working on the wording for it.

Will the Senator submit a reworded amendment on Report Stage?

I will. We have already debated this issue.

Amendment No. 49 not moved.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 23, line 29, to delete “arrest without warrant and”.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 7; Níl, 18.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Máiría.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
Tellers: Tá, Senators David Norris and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 23, line 39, to delete “, and any other necessary modifications”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 24, to delete lines 1 to 6.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 53 and 192 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 24, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“(d) Due regard shall be had to the provisions of section 49 when making any order under this section.”.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 10; Níl, 17.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Máiría.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
Tellers: Tá, Senators David Norris and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.
Government amendment No. 54:
In page 24, line 24, to delete “practitioner” and substitute "representative".
Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 55 has been ruled out of order.

Why has it been ruled out of order?

It involves a potential charge on the Exchequer.

What a nonsense.

Amendment No. 55 not moved.
Government amendment No. 56:
In page 24, line 28, to delete "solicitor" and substitute "legal representative".

This is a minor amendment to subsection (14) to effectively replace the term "solicitor" with the term "legal representative". The term "legal representative" is preferred because it is defined in the interpretation section of the Bill as meaning a practising solicitor or barrister.

Without wishing to interrupt the Minister of State, everything has gone so quickly that I was denied the opportunity to point out that amendment No. 55 might not have caused a charge on the Exchequer. It might have been a voluntary interpreter provided by one of the immigrant support groups.

It has been ruled upon and we are dealing with amendment No. 56.

Amendment put and declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 57, 58 and 61 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 57:

In page 24, lines 33 and 34, to delete "in a language that he or she may reasonably be supposed to understand" and substitute "in a language that the person understands".

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 11; Níl, 18.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Máiría.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

As it is now past 7 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Seanad of 3 December 2015: "That the Government amendments not disposed of other than amendments Nos. 159, 176 and 230 are hereby made to the Bill; that section 20, as amended, is hereby agreed to in Committee; that in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, other than section 33, which is hereby deleted, the section or, as appropriate, the section as amended, is hereby agreed to in Committee; that Schedules 1 and 2 and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee; that the Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House; that Fourth Stage is hereby completed; that the Bill is hereby received for final consideration and that the Bill is hereby passed."

This is complete and absolute rubbish. It is an affront to democracy.

Question put.
The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Under Standing Order 62(3)(b), I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Question put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 11.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Máiría.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • Sheahan, Tom.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.

In accordance with an order of the House of last Thursday, the Seanad will sit again tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.

The Seanad adjourned at 7.25 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 8 December 2015.