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Select Committee on Legislation and Security debate -
Tuesday, 6 Feb 1996


Amendments Nos. 22 and 50 are related, amendment No. 23 is an alternative to amendment No. 22 and amendment Nos. 23 and 92 are related. Amendments Nos. 22, 23, 50 and 92 may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 8, subsection (2), lines 7 to 10, to delete paragraphs (b) and (c) and substitute the following:

"(b) the date on which his or her application is withdrawn or deemed to be withdrawn pursuant to subsection 14 (b) or 16, as the case may be, or

(c) the date on which notice is sent that the Minister has refused to give him or her a declaration.".

Subsection (2) of section 9 provides for the circumstances under which leave to enter or remain in the State granted to applicants for a declaration will terminate. Subsection 2 (b) provides that one such circumstance is where an application is withdrawn or deemed to be withdrawn. However, it has been brought to my attention that the phrase "deemed to be withdrawn" should be clarified in the interest of certainty. Accordingly, amendment No. 22 seeks to clarify this phrase by adding specific references to the subsections which provide that applications can be deemed to be withdrawn.

The first such provision is in subsection (14) (b) which provides that the application of a detained person can be deemed to be withdrawn where the person indicates a wish to leave the State and a judge of the District Court orders the Minister to arrange the removal of the person from the State. The second such provision is in subsection (16) where an application from any person not given leave to enter or remain in the State pursuant to subsection (15) which has been referred to the Commissioner can be deemed to be withdrawn.

This amendment does not affect the substance of the section. Its purpose is simply to remove any possibility of ambiguity in relation to the phrase "deemed to be withdrawn". Consequently, I am also proposing amendment No. 50 which clarifies that the meaning of "deemed to be withdrawn" in section 15(1) is only that given to the phrase by sections 9 or 22. This amendment does not change the substance of the text.

In amendments Nos. 23 and 92, Deputy O'Donnell provides that a person's leave to remain in the State does not expire until at least seven days from the date of the notification of the Minister's decision. I can fully appreciate that the Deputy very rightly wants to avoid a situation where a person is suddenly told that they must leave and are not given appropriate time to make arrangements or consider what options might be open to them.

For this reason I have provided in section 17 for a two step approach where the Minister has made a decision not to grant a declaration. First, she must advise the person of her decision and of the possibility that an order will be made requiring the person to leave the State. Second, if the Minister decides to make a deportation order, it cannot be effective for 30 days. This is designed to enable them to consider the options open to them and to enable the person to seek entry to another State.

If I were to accept the Deputy's amendment it would only lead to confusion between the seven day period proposed and the 30 day period provided in section 17 in relation to deportation. I hope that in the circumstances the Deputy will agree to withdraw the amendment.

I take the Minister of State's point that she has considered this prospect. Under the present wording the applicant or person referred to in section 8 (1) (c) would not be entitled to remain in the State by the time they receive notice of a refusal of the declaration of refugee status. I was concerned, therefore, that they be given time to regularise their affairs or initiate a legal challenge to the Minister's decision.

I believed that the amendment was important in light of the powers granted to the Minister under section 17 (8) (a) to order the temporary detention or restraint of an unsuccessful applicant. When a declaration of refusal of refugee status is made, section 17 confers a power of temporary detention or restraint to the Minister. The Minister assured me that later in the Bill there is a two-tier approach to removals which permits the person involved a period of 30 days to initiate a legal challenge or order their affairs. On the basis of that assurance, I withdraw my amendment. The Minister will appreciate that I was concerned that there could be a danger that people refused refugees status would not have sufficient time to a legal challenge or order his or her affairs.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 23 not moved.

I propose that we adjourn until 5.00 p.m. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Sitting suspended at 4.25 p.m. and resumed at 5.00 p.m.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 8, subsection (4) (b), line 26, after "declaration" to insert ", or without the consent of the Minister".

This relates to section 9 (4) (b) which states that an applicant shall not "seek or enter employment or carry on any business, trade or profession during the period before the final determination of his or her application for a declaration.".

The refugee council, in particular, recommended that the applicant should be allowed to work if there has not been a ruling on their claim within six months. I suggest giving the Minister discretion in this matter rather than giving an absolute right to work when there has not been a ruling on the claim within a six months period. This would be similar to the position in the UK where an applicant can apply for permission to work after six months.

While I appreciate the Deputy's motives for moving this amendment, I feel it is neither appropriate nor necessary. It must be borne in mind that asylum seekers have only temporary permission to remain in the State pending the determination of their applications. Where their applications are successful, they will be allowed to remain in the State and work without restriction. That is as it should be and the Bill copperfastens this principle. However, where applications are unsuccessful, the applicants, if not permitted to remain for humanitarian reasons, will have to leave the State. I do not think it would be appropriate to allow people with only a temporary permission to remain in the State to work and put down roots.

One of the reasons put forward for allowing asylum seekers to work is the length of time taken to process their applications. This is the major problem with the current system. I hope that one of the positive aspects of this Bill will be that processing applications should be considerably speeded up and a successful applicant will then have the right to work without restriction.

Another consideration I have about allowing asylum seekers to work is that I honestly believe such a facility could be too easily abused. For example, an employer could arrange for a group of workers from a low wage country to arrive in Ireland, seek asylum and be allowed to work without complying with statutory requirements. Such workers could be paid extremely low wages and, in all probability, would leave the country on completion of their contracts.

Such an eventually would be most unfair to all the persons entitled to work in the country. They would be deprived of jobs and other employers would lose contracts because of being undercut by unscrupulous competitors. While some countries allow asylum seekers to work after a certain length of time as the Deputy said, the reality is that because of other constraints, for example, language difficulties, labour market conditions or cultural differences, they do not find employment.

I accept the Minister's reasoning on the matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 25. Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 are related and amendment No. 28 is an alternative to amendment No. 27. Therefore, amendments Nos. 25 to 28, inclusive, will be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 9, subsection (8), lines 1 and 2, to delete paragraph (c) and substitute the following:

"(c) has attempted to conceal his or her true identity, and such concealment was not, in the applicant's particular circumstances, reasonable,".

This section deals with a situation where an immigration officer or a member of the Garda Síochána, with reasonable cause, suspects that an applicant has destroyed his or her identity or travel documents or is in possession of forged identity documents.

Amnesty International and the Irish Refugee Council have expressed concern about a failure to recognise the realistic fears and problems faced by a refugee. My amendment attempts to deal with the situation where the refugee has a fear of authority, lacks linguistic skills or, by virtue of the means used to escape from the country of persecution, simply does not have the means of establishing his or her identity to the satisfaction of the officer or garda. Accordingly, I propose in the amendment to restrict the detention to cases where the person has actively tried to conceal their identity.

We are dealing with amendments Nos. 25, 26, 27 and 28. Deputy O'Donoghue might wish to discuss amendment No.26.

It appears that subsection (8) (d) allows for the detention of a person for no other reason but that they intend to enter another State without lawful authority. It is difficult for groups interested in this area to understand why this State should get involved in the intentions of an individual regarding the possibility of his or her entering another State. It is felt that such people should not be singled out for detention.

In paragraph (e) the question of an individual destroying his or her identity or travel documents or being in possession of forged identity documents is mentioned. There is ample evidence and it is well documented internationally that many people fleeing persecution will often be in possession of forged identity documents. As a result of their situation, they probably would be unable to approach their own State authorities to obtain valid documentation. Indeed, genuine applicants might very well be fearful of travelling to the capital city of their country to obtain a visa for Ireland or another country.

In those circumstances a genuine applicant might destroy travel documents or identity papers without reasonable cause and perhaps even on the advice of a third party. In view of the fearful situation of an asylum seeker and the logistics of the situation, it appears to be unreasonable to penalise the individual for taking steps to obtain documentation when the individual would not, perhaps, be in a position to obtain valid documentation in the first instance. That is the reason for these amendments.

The purpose of amendment No. 27 is to delete paragraph (e) and to substitute an alternative. It aims to remove any ambiguity as to whether the reasonable cause proviso applies to the possession of forged documents. Escape from the country of persecution may only have been possible by the use of forged documents. The amendent is an attempt to acknowledge that some asylum seekers might have been obliged to use forged identity documents and to understand the particular conditions under which the asylum seeker has had to break the law or to use forged documents. If that behaviour was reasonable in the circumstances relevant to the particular individual, the amendment provides for more flexibility in that case.

We should be lenient about forged documents held by refugees. Anything could have happened in that regard. They are coming, perhaps, from a State where they do not wish to be identifed or recognised. I am seeking clarification on two matters. The section provides that if the person is found with such documents the officer may detain the person in a prescribed place of detention. Would that affect them with regard to giving them refugee status later? Is it only when the refugee arrives that he or she will be in difficulty and detained? What is the long-term prognosis for the individual?

Deputy O'Donoghue spoke about our right to prevent people from going to another country or using our country for that purpose. In London airport a few years ago I saw a person being stopped from going to Ireland. I was flabbergasted; there appeared to be an arrangement whereby if the authorities there detected somebody attempting to come to Ireland they would stop the person concerned. The situation I am referring to concerned a girl who intended to visit her married sister living in Carlow. She was coming from a certain jurisdiction and was stopped in London. Does that arrangement still hold? If it does, why?

With regard to the incarceration of people when they arrive, in practice it is very rare for an asylum seeker to be detained — Deputy O'Donoghue would agree that we have other uses for our prison places — for any length of time.

That is a punishment in itself.

I am aware of only three cases from a total of 424 applications for asylum in 1995 where an asylum seeker was detained under existing provisions in immigration law. In one of the cases the person's detention as an illegal immigrant lasted for a couple of hours. In the other two cases, their detention as illegal immigrants lasted for two nights after which they were given bed and breakfast accommodation through the community welfare officer system. I am satisfied that the reasons for the detentions were sound and that the power to detain is exercised responsibly by immigration officers.

I appreciate the spirit in which the Deputies put forward their amendments. Amendment No. 26 would remove from the grounds for detention of an asylum seeker a reference to a suspected intention to leave the State and enter another State without lawful authority. The purpose of having this provision in the Bill is to safeguard the integrity of the common travel area arrangements between this country and the United Kingdom. These are the arrangements that enable people to pass between the two jurisdictions without being subject to systematic passport controls or other immigration checks at ports or borders. This common travel area is of vital importance to the smooth operation of trade on all parts of this island and between the two islands. It is also an important feature of tourist and other social interchanges between us. It is important to safeguard the arrangement as a matter of public policy. This has been recognised by the High Court and it is important to remain committed to its preservation.

An important element in these arrangements is that each country operates controls on people coming from outside either State to ensure that not only do they meet the requirements of domestic immigration law but that they also meet the other State's requirements. Thus, immigration officers at Heathrow, for example, will ensure that a person landing there from outside these islands who wishes to continue to Ireland can do so legally. Similarly, our legislation contains provisions to deal with potential illegal immigrants to the United Kingdom.

Without the provision which amendment No. 26 would delete, it would be a simple matter for an unscrupulous person to use this country as a back door for easy illegal access to the United Kingdom. They could arrive here and say to the immigration officer that they are seeking asylum and travelling on the next boat to Holyhead. Such a loophole would make a nonsense of the common travel area arrangements and it can be assumed that our partners in these arrangements might not be slow to pull out of them.

Illegal immigration is a growing business and one in which there is evidence that organised crime is playing a more active part. The information networks are such that news of such a loophole would not be long in getting wide circulation. That is why I reject amendment No. 26.

With regard to amendment No. 27, I accept that the provision as drafted might not cater for the situation where a person has reasonable cause to be in possession of forged documents. The possession of forged documents or the destruction of identity documents is not the problem; it is the persistence in that regard.

When people make asylum applications, they are expected within a reasonable period to tell their stories honestly because they are now in a safe haven. Obtaining this story is an essential part of the process of judging a refugee application. The problem is not people travelling on forged documents or a person destroying documents in the belief that they have to do so in order to secure their safety. Like everybody else I recognise and accept that this will be the case in a number of instances. Once people begin the asylum seeking process, they should be truthful and honest with regard to hearings and telling their stories. If we are to make judgments on whether a person is a bona fide refugee, we must be able to obtain this information. I stress that the problem is not the forging or destruction of documents.

In normal circumstances there can be no reasonable cause for an immigrant to have forged documents. Trade in forged documents is a skilled and lucrative criminal activity. However, in the special case of a person fleeing persecution, recourse to forged documents may be the only means of escape and, therefore, can be reasonable in those circumstances. Amendment No. 27, in the name of Deputy O'Donnell, appears to meet this point but I would like the opportunity to check the drafting of the paragraph between now and Report Stage with this specifically in mind. Will the Deputy withdraw the amendment on that basis?

Amendment No. 25 seeks to introduce a new phrase not used in the Bill as drafted; the notion of an act being reasonable or otherwise in the applicant's particular circumstances. This does not give me any difficulty in principle, as can be see from my response to amendment No. 27. However, its introduction has the effect of changing considerably the original intent of subsection 8 (c). The amendment speaks of attempts to conceal one's true identity, an active if negative concept requiring the person to take some step in order to come within the provisions of the paragraph.

I am of the view that paragraph (e) of the subsection deals reasonably well with such actions. Paragraph (c) deals with a somewhat different situation, that is, where the person is passively uncooperative, for instance remaining mute of malice when questioned about identity. We have had a great deal of discussion about this in a domestic context in recent times.

It is important that the immigration officer should be able to establish a person's identity so that security and criminal matters can be checked out; this is a vital national interest of ours. If a person tries to stymie such inquiries by failing to co-operate, it is vital to the security and safety of society that the immigration officer should have the power to detain while the necessary checks are being made. I can conceive of no circumstances where a bona fide asylum seeker can justify withholding co-operation in establishing his or her true identity because this is such a basic requirement of the asylum application process. I ask the Deputy to withdraw amendment No. 25 and I will consider amendment No. 27 before Report Stage.

I take the points made by the Minister and I look forward to Report Stage when perhaps an alternative wording can be put forward to take account of the purpose of any amendment.

With regard to section 9 (8) (e), it appears that the question of there being no reasonable cause applies to a person destroying his or her identity or travel documents but it does not apply to a person in possession of forged identity documents. There should be a paragraph (f) which would contain the words "without reasonable cause in his or her possession forged identity documents". However, this is a matter for Report Stage and I withdraw my amendment.

If satisfactory wording can be found it would deal with this. In the regime which will apply if the Bill is passed, there will be training of immigration officers and the preparation of manuals on immigration practices and procedures. I hope it will be possible to have a clear situation, particularly in relation to the concerns expressed by the NGOs concerned with the welfare of asylum seekers. These matters will be addressed and covered.

The case of the girl who was stopped and turned around at Heathrow airport in London was mentioned. She was travelling from the Philippines to visit her married sister in Carlow. She would have been treated much differently at Dublin Airport. I do not know if she would have been illegal here and if she would have had to obtain a visa. I would prefer to see Dublin Airport dealing with such cases rather than Heathrow.

I do not want to talk about the specifics of this case. In general communication between Heathrow and the Department of Justice is possible and occurs regularly. Most of these cases are satisfactorily resolved. I have heard of similar cases and have raised them in my role as a Deputy. On the other hand, the advantages to us of a common travel area are enormous. I hope most of these difficulties can be addressed by the upgraded training immigration officers are now receiving. There is acknowledgement by all the NGOs that this training has resulted in considerable change in the situation in our jurisdiction.

I was on the point of playing for the captain's prize in golf when I received a phone call on the matter.

Did the Deputy sort it out?

I received the surliest treatment I have ever received from anyone.

Was this from the Department of Justice?

Yes. I was told there was no way in the world to deal with this situation. This happened three years ago. The girl in question was not able to travel to Ireland.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 26 to 28, inclusive, not moved.

Amendment No. 29, in the name of Deputy O'Donoghue, is out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Revenue. However, the Deputy may wish to make a brief comment on it.

The Minister has adequately answered the question on legal aid and I am pleased with her response.

Amendment No. 29 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 37 and 39 are related to amendment No. 30. Therefore, amendments Nos. 30, 37 and 39 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 9, subsection (10) (b), line 17, after "may" to insert ", if satisfied that the suspicions of the immigration officer or member of the Garda Síochána were, and continue to be, well founded".

The purpose of this amendment is to put a limit on the wide discretion conferred on a District Court judge to order the continued detention of an applicant. If an immigration officer detains a person who has not made reasonable efforts to reveal his identity or has attempted to conceal it, the justification for such detention is surely eliminated once the identity has been established or revealed. It addresses the possibility that there should be some flexibility for a District Judge's capacity to change, given the circumstances of the case.

The grounds of detention are clearly set out in section 9 (8). The ten day detention period seems excessive. I know I am not comparing like with like, but if an individual is held for questioning in respect of a criminal offence, he can only be held for two separate periods of six hours and a rest period of eight hours, totalling 20 hours in all. If an individual is held for questioning under the Offences Against the State Act, that period will extend to 48 hours. The Minister for Justice has proposed measures and Fianna Fáil has legislation dealing with drug traffickers before the Dáil, to extend the period of detention to seven days with judicial review after 48 hours.

While I realise the detention provisions in this Bill are different in that the individual is not held for questioning, we can reasonably compare the ten day detention period to that allowed under other legislation. In our criminal law, for example, detention of an individual remanded in custody would not extend to ten days nor would the detention of a child in a custody hearing exceed or even approach that figure without there being a full hearing.

It also appears from section 9 (8) that there may be no time limit whatsoever on the periods of detention. People could be held for an infinite number of ten day periods. To ensure there is equity, that the matter is dealt with expeditiously, and to be fair to the asylum seeker, my amendment suggests the period of detention should be eight days, an individual could not be held for longer than two periods of eight days and that the matter should be resolved by then. I will be interested to hear the Minister's comments on this important matter.

Deputy O'Donoghue has also referred to amendments Nos. 31 and 38 in his contribution. Therefore, I will also refer to them.

This issue came up for discussion in the 1994 Bill. The detention period provided for in that Bill was 21 days and misgivings were correctly expressed about the length of this period. Therefore, I have reduced the period of detention to ten days in the 1995 Bill.

I accept what the Deputy is saying about the problems with long detention periods. It is a grave power. This period is the minimum required to allow the authorities, which must first have reasonable cause to detain the person, to check out details such as identity, criminal records etc. Such inquiries may take time because it may be necessary to check information through international channels and a reasonable period has to be provided to allow the time required for such inquiries.

I mentioned some of the countries from which people regularly arrive in Ireland and because of different social customs with weekends and days off etc. in different parts of the world, it may take some time to complete inquiries. In such circumstances, ten days is the minimum practicable time limit.

Section 9 (10) (c) imposes an absolute obligation on the immigration officer or garda to bring the person before the court to arrange for his or her release at any stage, which could, of course, be before the expiry of the ten day period if the circumstances warranting detention no longer exist. The detention provided for by this section is not the same concept as detention of persons on criminal charges in that section 9 (14)(b) provides a procedure to ensure the person is free to leave at any stage if he or she wishes to leave the State; I am speaking on amendments Nos. 31 and 38 in that respect. I will not be able to accept those amendments, having reduced the detention period from 21 days to 10 days.

Amendments Nos. 30, 37 and 39 seek to ensure the courts impose or extend detention only where it is necessary and only for as long as is absolutely necessary. This is not at odds with my intention or that of this section, which provides for the supervision of detention by the courts. The courts, in exercising their functions under this or any Act, must have regard as appropriate, to the Constitution and established principles of law, such as principles of natural justice, and accordingly, they will not tolerate the deprivation of the liberty of any individual for longer than it is absolutely necessary. Our system cannot afford to incarcerate people for longer than is absolutely necessary.

It is implicit in assigning the supervision of detention to the courts that they will only agree to the continued detention of a person when there is reasonable cause in accordance with the provisions of section 9 (8) or (13). Section 9 is framed on this basis and accordingly, a court would be expected to release a person immediately if there was no reasonable cause for detention and would not, for example, have to wait for the expiry of two periods of detention, as Deputy O'Donoghue suggested. I am concerned there might be a serious fault in the proposed amendments and for that reason, I will not accept them.

However, I am prepared to raise this matter with the parliamentary draftsman. If he considers on re-examination of the Bill that a provision is necessary or desirable to explicitly state what I consider to be implied by assigning a supervisory role to the courts, I will bring forward an amendment to that effect on Report Stage. In this case, I am trying to balance the protection of our interests and allocating time for reasonable inquiries and protection of the applicants' interest.

I am concerned that an individual, who may be extremely scared who arrives in this country and is detained, possibly in a prison of some kind would feel it might be best to move on, even if his case is genuine. Nobody wants to see that happen. Depriving people of their liberties is a serious matter and detaining a person for such a long period with no specified end is undesirable. If people in this situation are to be detained, a form other than imprisonment should almost certainly be considered. Furthermore, any such detention should not be for a prolonged period.

I ask the Minister two questions. Where does she envisage that people under this legislation would be detained? For how long would she anticipate, on average, such detentions to be?

I can only give the Deputy the example of the situation at present. Out of 424 applicants for asylum in 1995 we detained a total of three people, one person for a couple of hours and two people for two nights. They are the only cases of detention of asylum seekers in 1995. Detention can only occur with good cause. When the case goes before the court it has to be shown that there is good cause for the detention. It is detention which is spoken of, not prison. The Deputy asks where people are to be held. I would not envisage us building or creating holding centres or detention centres as has happened in other jurisdictions. I would be very unhappy with that.

At present detention is used very sparingly and rarely. At the same time one has to recognise that there will be situations where officers genuinely feel they have good cause, where they have fears in relation to an applicant's background or their reasons for seeking asylum in Ireland. In some cases the person could be a risk to the security of the State. The Deputy will be familiar with the case which occurred in the Department of Justice early last year where an escapee from prison in another jurisdiction who had a conviction for rape sought asylum as a refugee. That person was rightfully detained and held; it is necessary for us to protect ourselves. However, I am certainly prepared to ask the draftsman to give more explicit assurances. From my reading of the proceedings of the committee on the 1994 Bill, I saw that many of the Deputies felt 21 days was excessive. I took those fears into account in reducing the period to 10 days.

The Minister referred to the fact that detention is very rarely used. She mentioned that three people were detained in 1995. I presume she is referring to asylum seekers. I raised this with the Minister for Justice because of the imprisonment of three Russians over Christmas. I asked if those persons had sought asylum and the basis on which they were held in Mountjoy Prison over Christmas and what had happened to them. I was interested because we were dealing with the matter before the Dáil and in this case I could see the system in operation.

The answer was that there were five persons, four of Georgian nationality and one of Azeri nationality, who sought asylum on 22 December 1995. They had been refused leave to land in the State on their arrival from France. The Minister's reply stated, "in line with international practice it was decided that the persons in question should be returned to France to pursue their asylum claim there." The matter is still before the courts so there was no further detail. I accept that, but it was admitted that two of the people in question were detained in Mountjoy from 22 to 24 December 1995, and that they were released on humanitarian grounds on 24 December. Will the procedures we are putting in place to determine the status of these applications be used to discover the veracity of their arguments as to whether they should be given refugee status? To decide to return them to France seems a very fast way to deal with the issue. How do we know what is happening to them in France?

This is the hard face of what we are dealing with. These people arrived here, a determination was made and in line with international practice they were sent back to France, having been imprisoned for two days. How does the Minister account for such a speedy way of determining their claim? I did not mean to spring the question on the Minister, I ask because we are dealing with detention.

Their claim was not determined and those people are still in the country. They are proceeding with an application. Their application is before the courts; they could not have been sent back to France at that stage because there was not another boat. If somebody in that situation makes an application, they are at liberty to pursue it. In this particular case the officers were concerned about the applicants. Two of them were detained for two nights. The other was put up in bed and breakfast accommodation in the Wexford area. The Deputy is entering into the area of the Dublin Convention principles which perhaps we can tease out when we come to the section dealing with the Dublin Convention. This important point will be dealt with later on in the Bill. It will also have to be dealt with directly by the Dáil when we ratify it.

This reply says "in line with international practice, it was decided that the persons in question should be returned to France to pursue their asylum claim there" but am I to understand that did not happen because they appealed it?

Yes. They have a right to do so.

They are not in gaol?

No. Two people were held for two nights.

They are making their claim through the courts.

This comes back to Deputy O'Donoghue's point as to where we should hold such people.

Mountjoy Prison is not the best place to put them.

In some countries there are purpose built detention centres for asylum seekers. They are not attractive places and I would be very opposed to the notion that we should develop them. Every effort is generally made to have people accommodated in bed and breakfast accommodation or in accommodation arranged by an organisation such as the Irish Red Cross or the Refugee Council. My own view is that detention is a last option and I would not like to see purpose-built detention centres in our current situation.

Mountjoy is not satisfactory and for that reason I would like to see the numbers in such cases kept to an absolute minimum, which was done during 1995. In the particular case I referred to, that of the rapist, there was a question of public security and our protection required that an escapee from another jurisdiction with a very serious conviction be detained.

I do not agree with detention centres or holding centres, but I am very disturbed at the idea of detaining any applicant for asylum in Mountjoy, or detaining any person there under suspicion under the five subsections of this section. Mountjoy is not an appropriate place to hold such people. Everybody would agree with that. At the very least, as a matter of policy the Minister should make it clear to her Department that detaining people in Mountjoy or any other prison in this State under this section will not be acceptable.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 38 is related to amendment No. 31 and both may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 9, subsection (10) (b) (i), line 20, to delete "10" and substitute "8".

I have already made the essential points in relation to the amendment and the Minister has replied. There is no need to proceed further with it. The Minister said she will examine it through the parliamentary draftsman's office.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 32 and 36 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 9, subsection (10), between lines 44 and 45, to insert the following:

"(d) Where a person has been released subject to a condition or conditions, pursuant to paragraph (b) (ii) of this subsection, the person, or the immigration officer, or, as the case may be, the member of the Garda Síochána concerned, may apply to the judge of the District Court who released the person, or such other judge of the District Court as is appropriate, and if the judge is satisfied that the condition is no longer appropriate, he may remove or vary the condition.".

As it stands, the Bill does not appear to provide for the removal of a condition to which a person's release has been made subject, even if a breach of subsection (8) no longer applies. It is difficult to justify this position, particularly if there was an onerous condition such as a requirement to reside in a specific place.

I accept the principle behind the amendment but I want the parliamentary draftsman to consider the wording. I will introduce an appropriately worded amendment on Report Stage.

Does that apply to both amendments?

I thank the Minister and I will withdraw the amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 are cognate to amendment No. 33 and all may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 9, subsection (12) (a), line 49, to delete "17" and substitute "18".

Deputy O'Donoghue referred to this matter earlier. The purpose of the amendments is to raise the age limit below which a person may not be detained to 18 years. This brings the provisions of the section into line with both the Child Care Act, 1991, as consistent with the earlier amendment, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which set the age limit for a child as under 18 years. I hope the committee will accept the amendments on the basis that it is only right the same age limit should be used for national and non national children.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 10, subsection (12) (b), line 4, to delete "17" and substitute "18".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 10, subsection (12) (b), line 6, to delete "17" and substitute "18".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 36 to 39, inclusive, not moved.

Amendment No. 40 was discussed with amendment No. 3. I understand the Minister will look again at this matter before Report Stage.

Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 not moved.
Section 9, as amended, agreed to.