Thursday, 26 February 2004

Questions (87)

Dan Boyle

Question:

85 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the reason, under section 47 of the Equality Bill 2004, non-nationals are excluded protection under the Equal Status Act 2000 in respect of widely defined actions of public authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6378/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

This section does not permit discrimination, in the provision of goods and services, to anyone in the State, on the basis of race or nationality.

Section 47, however, clarifies that any action taken by a public authority, governing or arising from the entry to and residence in the State of non-nationals is not challengable under the Equal Status Act 2000. This was implicit in the existing Act because permitting entry to and residence in the State is not a "service" within the meaning of the Act. Moreover, treating persons differently on the basis of their legal status, for example, distinguishing between those lawfully and unlawfully resident in the State, and those seeking asylum and those granted it, is not discrimination on the grounds of race or nationality.

Article 3 of the race directive states, "This Directive does not cover difference of treatment based on nationality and is without prejudice to provisions and conditions relating to the entry into and residence of third country nationals and stateless persons on the territory of Member States, and to any treatment which arises from the legal status of the third-country nationals and stateless persons concerned."

In the Equal Status Act, we outlaw discrimination on the ground of nationality. This goes beyond the requirements of the race directive.

In line with Article 3(2) of the directive, we wish to extend the statutory exclusion in section 14 of the Equal Status Act 2000 to also exclude non-statutory schemes, for example, direct provision for asylum seekers, which allow different treatment on the basis of the legal status of third country nationals from the remit of the Equal Status Act 2000. This amendment is required also to keep in line with a similar amendment being provided for the Employment Equality Act 1998.

Contrary to what is suggested by the Deputy, section 47 narrowly defines the actions of the public authorities that are exempt, namely those actions governing or arising from the entry to and residence in the State of non-nationals.