Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 6 Dec 2018

Vol. 976 No. 3

International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 [Seanad]: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I find myself in the unusual situation of moving a Bill that is not mine. I cannot, unfortunately, claim the credit for it. The Bill results from the efforts and work of Senator Kelleher and her team, and indeed the Members of the Seanad Civil Engagement Group. Great credit also has to go to Nasc Ireland, Oxfam and the Irish Refugee Council. They all worked with Senator Kelleher on this Bill. It passed through the Seanad but there was no equivalent to the Civil Engagement Group in the Dáil, so the Business Committee very kindly agreed to schedule the Bill in this slot and asked me to take it forward today.

I also acknowledge the role of Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin who held a briefing on this issue earlier this afternoon and who has been incredibly supportive of its provisions. In supporting the Bill, as Senator Kelleher said when she introduced it in the Seanad, this is really a modest proposal. It came out of a substantial and unnecessary erosion of the right to family reunification in the International Protection Act 2015. When that Act commenced, it removed the discretionary right, that had existed under the old Refugee Act 1996, to apply for extended family members to come to Ireland. It also introduced a one year time limit for refugees to submit an application for family reunification.

All this Bill does is broaden the scope of the definition of "family members" eligible to include a dependent grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, grandchild, ward or guardian of the sponsor. It reinstates section 18(4) of the repealed Refugee Act 1996 but without the discretionary element for the Minister. It is not earth shattering. This Bill will not result in recognised refugees successfully applying to have 30 of their healthy strapping cousins, uncles, aunts or sisters coming to live with them. All it does is allow somebody who has come to Ireland, and perhaps left an elderly or disabled parent with nobody to care for them, to apply for that person to come here as well.

It would, for example, allow a Syrian mother of a 19-year old daughter, who is dependent on her, to come to Ireland. She could apply for that to happen. She cannot do that at present and that is something that would be absolutely abhorrent to most parents. As the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, pointed out at the time, the definition in section 55 of the International Protection Act 2015 of a member of family who may enter and reside in the State is far too narrow. Notably, it excludes dependents. In its recent review of the provisions of the Act, IHREC pointed out that the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, in its jurisprudence on Article 8 of ECHR rights, has held that the right to family life extends beyond the nuclear family to relationships between grandparents and grandchildren, uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews and between adult siblings.

Bearing in mind that the ECHR is Europe's highest court and it is of the view that family extends beyond nuclear, it is hardly surprising that since the 2015 Act was commenced there has been a massive upsurge in cases before the courts. Between January and June of this year, there have been 18 such cases on reunification before the courts. I put it to the Minister of State that perhaps it is time he started listening to the NGOs in this sector, to the Members of the Seanad and to these international organisations. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, for its part, has repeatedly argued for a liberal interpreting of "family" for the purpose of family reunification. As it states, the family plays an essential role to help refugees to rebuild their lives. It can also provide critical support to adapt to new and challenging circumstances.

Restoring families can also ease the sense of loss which accompanies many refugees who, in addition to family, have lost their country, networks and life as they knew it. Family support in this sense goes beyond any traditional cultural understanding of a family but will include those who rely and depend on each other. It makes sense and is so obvious that it hardly needs saying. However, sometimes when it is so obvious, we cannot see it.

The family reunification provisions under the old Refugee Act were not exactly liberal to begin with. It is shocking that the Government removed them from the International Protection Act 2015. While it might reassure the Government, the numbers involved, unfortunately, are tiny. Between 2008 and 2016, before the Irish refugee protection programme, IRPP, was set up, Ireland granted asylum to a total of 3,485 people. Add to that those who have come in under the IRPP over the past several years, the total comes to 6,000 people over ten years. Can the Government not find it in its heart to allow a tiny number of people, probably 1% of the population over a decade, apply to have their dependent parents, grown-up children or siblings join them? When the Refugee Act was in operation, the number of family members of recognised refugees who applied to come and join them was roughly two. I cannot understand the Government's resistance to it.

It is utterly appalling that we stand over a system where people can come here as unaccompanied minors, get their status after a period - for some of them it might take several years - but they cannot apply to have any family member to come and join them if they get their status after they reach the age of 18. They may have left their family when they were under 18. They may have been sent out with every penny the family had to get them to safety. They may have spent years trying to find their family members in a conflict zone. Obviously, it is not as easy as putting a stamp on a letter and hoping it will get there.

War dislocates people and separates families. It can take years to find one’s family. Take the case of people who eventually find their family and apply for them to join them. However, it is turned down because that person got his or her status when he or she was over 18. The isolation that one was sent into as a child remains into one's adult years. It is heart breaking to think that there are people in that situation. Critically, the Bill removes the time limit for the making of an application once international protection status has been granted. This is entirely sensible. As Oxfam and the Irish Refugee Council pointed out, it is not unusual for people to take a long time to find relatives. Accordingly, this is an important provision.

I pay tribute to the work put in by Róisín Hinds completing the important study into refugees’ experiences of the family reunification system since the changes were brought in with the 2015 Act. She tells of the real stories and the devastating consequences of these measures. She talked about a father who spent months frantically trying to track down his daughter, only to find out he could not apply because the 12-month limit had passed. We know of the people who spent years languishing in direct provision. If that was not bad enough, we have had the added trauma that as a consequence of the delay of those in direct provision getting their status, parents have subsequently tried to apply to get their daughters but they cannot leave. Accordingly, the parent is left here alone.

In the Seanad, we heard heart-breaking stories of elderly and sick grandmothers left in squalid conditions on the island of Lesbos. I know the Minister of State was at the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality yesterday when we discussed the conditions in Camp Moria in Lesbos. The conditions are so bad there that children as young as ten are trying to take their own lives inside the camp. Overcrowding is so extreme that asylum seekers spend as much as 12 hours a day waiting in line for mouldy food. Up to 80 people wait for a shower and 70 people for a toilet. Workers talk about raw sewage leaking into the tents where children live. When the BBC visited the camp last summer, while it was filming, two people were stabbed to death in the queue for food. Our legislation, however, states that recognised refugees in Ireland who have a family member in that situation have to resign themselves to leaving an elderly grandmother there. It is shocking. Having one's family around one is important. We all know that instinctively.

I know the Minister will tell me that the Government recognises family reunification is important and this has been recognised in the humanitarian admission programme, which is part of the Government's commitment under the Irish refugee programme. He will tell me that this has broader criteria in terms of family members than the reunification under the International Protection Act. However, it is limited to people who are currently in conflict zones and it is operated under the Minister's discretionary power. In other words, it is substantially more limited than what we are proposing here today. I know this argument was repeatedly made by the Government in the Seanad when Senator Kelleher moved her Bill. However, that argument was rejected by our colleagues in the Seanad. I trust and hope the same will happen here in the Dáil.

What the Government is attempting to stand over is a two-tier international protection system in this country. It is incredible that we have managed to designate some people fleeing from war and persecution as more deserving of care and compassion than others fleeing other wars and persecution. It is a ranking system for wars. If one is fleeing from one of the top five wars, as selected by the western powers, then one can get treated as a full human being. Having one kind of family reunification for one type of refugee and another for a different type is disgraceful in this day and age.

Ireland has one of the lowest refugee recognition rates in the world. In 2016, 65.6 million people around the world were displaced and seeking refuge. We granted refugee recognition to 646 of them, 0.0009% of the total, yet we are one of the richest countries in the world. It is a pathetic number. To quote Senator Kelleher again, what we are looking at here is a modest proposal. If the Government cannot find it in its heart to support it, I give up. I do not know what it is at. As a result of the campaign initiated by Oxfam, the Irish Refugee Council and Nasc, it was heartening to see the level of support and emails from citizens appealing to politicians at this time of year to get this Bill passed and to allow families to be reunited. It is striking that this is in some ways indicative of new politics with the Business Committee taking the decision to introduce an entirely new process in order to get this Bill, which was passed by the Seanad, into the Dáil. I thank the Ceann Comhairle and all the members of the Business Committee who came up with this creative approach to get us here today. They did not do so to have it rejected. They got it here to undo the wrongs of the 2015 legislation. That is not speculation. It is a fact as a result of the studies done.

We also need to look at the supports for refugees under family reunification. Having dealt with many families in this situation, when they get here, there is absolutely nothing for them in many instances. This has resulted in people who fled war in Afghanistan going back there because they were homeless on our streets. That is shocking. There are no designated organisations to take up the process of family reunification in its entirety. Take the example of where the sponsor is an unaccompanied minor. Tusla may have worked with that child in care. It is then given the job to reunite the family without the resources to deal with it in a proper way. One might have a case of a young boy, separated from his family at 13 or 14 years of age, sent to the west who is now trying to bring his mother here.

His mother has not seen him since he left as a child. Now he is a man, but he is really only 17 or 18 years of age. His mother comes to Ireland with no English and never having left the country. She is more or less dumped in the care of that young man, who then must do everything - run around the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to get a PPS number; if they are lucky enough to get a house, to get bins for it; and endure the stress of rebuilding a family relationship in an alien country after having been separated for so long. The situation is so challenging anyway that we do not need to put barriers in place.

I salute Crosscare, which has done tremendous work in highlighting the shortcomings in this area. I thank Senator Kelleher and our Seanad colleagues in the Civil Engagement group. We owe them. We also owe it to the children and vulnerable families, whom I am so glad we gave refuge, to allow them to be reunited with vulnerable family members who desperately need their help. I hope that the Minister of State reconsiders.

I am pleased to be present on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, who conveys his apologies.

Deputies will be aware that, for a number of important reasons, the Government opposed this Bill when the Seanad discussed it on Second Stage in July 2017 and on Committee Stage in November 2017. A number of proposed amendments to the Bill were tabled on Committee Stage and the Government opposed those as well. This is not to say that the Government is not committed to assisting family reunification proactively. Far from it, as I will outline in my contribution. However, it maintains its opposition to the Bill's provisions. I will briefly outline the key reasons for this.

Both this House and the Seanad passed the International Protection Act 2015, including the changes made to the family reunification provisions, in December 2015 by a significant majority. The Act brings Ireland closer into line with the provisions of the EU family reunification directive and, indeed, contains more generous features, including a longer application time limit and no imposition of economic conditions on sponsors as exist in other member states. At this important time in Europe when EU migration is in danger of becoming a more divisive issue, it is important that we retain our core values of offering assistance and protection to those most in need while not creating a bespoke situation significantly out of step with our EU partners and neighbours.

The proposed Bill seeks to restore the broader definition of "family member" under the old Refugee Act 1996, as amended, while removing the element of ministerial discretion that was contained therein. These discretionary aspects have been used effectively by this Government to respond to a range of humanitarian situations that have arisen in recent times. The amendment proposed by the Senators to the 2015 Act would replace the discretionary permission under section 18(4) of the repealed 1996 Act with a legal right to an open-ended family reunification for extended family members. This would legally oblige the State to reserve resources for unquantifiable numbers of potential applicants with future rights instead of directing available resources to those in greatest humanitarian distress today.

The right to family reunification under Irish law requires that admitted family members be resettled in the same locality as the sponsoring refugee. Local authorities, which are already feeling the strain of providing permanent housing for refugees in the midst of a national housing crisis, would be required to provide additional houses in their areas for the extended family members proposed under the Bill even while we are struggling to identify and share these potential resources throughout the country for those in immediate danger as they flee conflict. This would have significant and unquantifiable impacts on the provision of housing, healthcare, education, welfare payments and other State supports and has the potential to create demand in areas with no capacity to respond. The Bill does not consider the financial impacts of its proposal. As a result, the Government will, if it is deemed by the Ceann Comhairle that such a message is required, decline a money message for this Private Members' Bill.

By reversing the reforms of the 2015 Act and reintroducing an open-ended scheme for a broader definition of "family member", the Bill would substantially curtail the State's ability to respond to an ongoing and future crisis by way of resettlement and other forms of humanitarian admission. Our priority should be to ensure that we can support a maximum number of vulnerable families instead of directing resources towards a smaller number of families who already have had the opportunity to avail of family reunification under our law.

The Bill fails to recognise that the discretionary permission under the 1996 Act has not been abandoned. The Minister proactively applies this provision under the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, non-EEA policy document on family reunification. Where appropriate, the Minister will waive the economic conditions for sponsors on humanitarian grounds. This practice will continue. This form of discretion continues to be the most flexible tool available to the Minister to allow the State to respond to humanitarian cases when and as they occur. It is impossible to predict in law every scenario that may need to be considered, and ministerial discretion allows the broadest possible humanitarian consideration for such changing and volatile situations facing those fleeing conflict. I urge Deputies not to reduce the impact of such considerations.

The Government actively promotes and provides for family reunification as an important part of the process of integration for refugees in Ireland, notwithstanding that the INIS policy document and other immigration permissions already provide legal avenues for many of the specific cases raised by Senators during the Second Stage debate in the Upper House. In addition, within the framework of the Irish refugee protection programme, IRPP, the Minister and I announced a new IRPP humanitarian admissions programme, IHAP, on 14 May 2018. We did this so that we would be able to respond in a flexible manner targeting those with the highest humanitarian needs and not be confined by the provisions of a prescriptive law. Thus, the scheme is aimed at those most in need of bringing their families here to urgent safety. The categories mentioned by Deputy Clare Daly are covered by this law.

The IHAP provides an opportunity to Irish citizens and persons with convention refugee status, subsidiary protection status and programme refugee status who have immediate eligible family members from the current top ten major source countries of refugees - the Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Eritrea and Burundi - to propose to the Minister that these family members join them in Ireland. The top ten source countries are selected by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees based on grants of status worldwide and not by any western power as the Deputy alluded to. The list is also subject to change. IHAP prioritises those in immediate danger, as does the IRPP.

IHAP is a two-year programme with 530 spaces available. The first call for proposals ran from 14 May to 30 June 2018. Applications received from the first call have been triaged and processed and I can advise the House that 53 proposals in respect of 91 beneficiaries have passed final security checks, and grant letters will issue during the third week of this month. I can further advise that approximately another 100 proposals in respect of 256 beneficiaries have been identified as potential grants, subject to final security checks. The speed with which this programme could be introduced and processed is an example of a discretion-based system that can and does respond to humanitarian needs. I am pleased to say that the second call for proposals, which will include the opportunity for those who submitted incomplete proposals in the first round to submit fresh applications, will be announced shortly. Thus, in a short time, we will welcome 530 vulnerable family members under this scheme to Ireland. It is anticipated that the second and probably final call for proposals under the programme will launch on 17 December 2018 and run until 31 January 2019. Following a review of its impact and success, we may be in a position to roll out similar schemes in the future at times of crisis.

The debate around this Bill to date has not sufficiently considered the number of legal paths for residents in Ireland to be joined by family members. As well as the humanitarian admission programme that I have outlined, the ministerial discretionary powers are additional to the family reunification provisions already provided for in the 2015 Act, which taken in their entirety allow the Minister to operate a flexible and balanced migration approach that should address many of the motivating concerns of the Senators who proposed the Bill.

The Government has ensured that family reunification is planned and managed to respond flexibly to those most in need and to match resources accordingly. It allows us the space to offer shelter to more people and to maximise resources within the community to ensure that we all work together in our response to vulnerability. To return to open-ended procedures that slow the system and require resources to be retained to meet possible future legally prescribed demands is not the process identified by the Government as the optimum way to respond quickly to crisis humanitarian situations. Indeed, it could have the opposite effect.

In solidarity with other member states, Ireland continues to play its role in helping all who flee conflict. It has responded this summer to requests for assistance to take those seeking protection from ports in the Mediterranean and to accept unaccompanied minors. In addition, further significant numbers are expected shortly under the resettlement programme. Our current legal provisions remain the most accessible in the EU and our discretionary humanitarian responses are at the forefront of European initiatives. I assure the House that we will continue to prioritise family reunification while retaining the flexibility that has proven so effective to date in making a real difference to those who depend on us for international protection in times of conflict. I am confident that the existing provisions of the Act and the proper use of discretionary powers in a progressive manner have enabled the Government to respond proactively and with compassion to those most in need. We want to continue, on behalf of the Irish people, to respond to those fleeing conflict and wishing to build a new life in Ireland for themselves and their immediate family members.

As everyone knows, we welcomed 41 unaccompanied minors from Calais. Tusla has worked with them to progress 21 families to join the unaccompanied minors welcomed here.

Deputy Clare Daly raised some cases. I must point out that they are eligible to make a proposal under IHAP and grandparents are also included. This is why we have the IHAP system. The Deputy also mentioned some people who came here as unaccompanied minors and upon reaching 18, could not request family members to join them here. If she could point out the particular prohibition, I will have it examined but we are not aware of it currently so perhaps she could bring that to our attention. Perhaps she could write to me because I would be anxious to hear about it.

There is an implication in the publicity around this Bill that it is giving a right to family reunification for the first time. Every person found to be in need of protection has a right to family reunification guaranteed in Irish law under the International Protection Act 2015 as defined. We are working with the UNHCR on IHAP. One staff member is assigned to the scheme. I must also point out that the Government is not a recent convert to family reunification. We guaranteed it in the International Protection Act 2015 and the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, brought in the Syrian humanitarian admissions programme in 2014 while another former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, guided the Irish refugee protection programme in 2016. The current Minister for Justice and Equality brought in IHAP in 2018. All of this is in addition to rights set out in law benefitting those in greatest need who are trying to flee conflict zones and seek safety here.

We must be very careful about getting rid of discretion. Some Senators have spoken about taking away the discretionary power. Discretion is hugely important here. The Minister can move and make decisions very quickly. Under IHAP, it is very flexible. The numbers that are coming forward are quite significant so I ask colleagues to think again about this and have another look at it but the Government is not in a position to support this legislation. We are very happy that what we have is working well and is way ahead of and better than what is proposed in this Bill.

I thank Senator Kelleher and the Civil Engagement Group and a range of political parties in the Seanad for their support for this Bill. I will make a few general points, which the Minister of State has probably heard before. He knows that the world is experiencing unprecedented displacement of people. Over 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of conflict, persecution or disaster, which is the highest number ever recorded. There are an estimated 22.5 million refugees, more than half of whom are children. The reality is that only a tiny portion of the world's refugees are able to use safe and legal mechanisms to access asylum. Most of them stay close to the country of origin, often in the same region where some of the poorest communities are helping to provide a safe haven. Low-income countries disproportionately host 84% of the world's refugees. Meanwhile wealthy countries like Ireland host relatively few. Although most refugees stay close to home, some people move further afield in pursuit of international protection.

While the routes to safety taken by refugees may be diverse, a common thread running through their experiences is the breakdown of the family unit. When a person finally reaches safety, their priority is being united with their loved ones. The 2015 legislation closed those doors for people here who are trying to reunite with their loved ones and families. The Irish Government provides limited opportunities for family reunification set out in law. Changes to legislation that began in 2016 have meant that only a very restricted category of family members could apply to be reunited - essentially spouses, parents of minor children and children under the age of 18. This is having an devastating impact on people trying to rebuild their lives in Ireland. The report from Oxfam, the Irish Refugee Council and Nasc Ireland draws out the human consequences of that for those people, the impact on refugee families and their ability to integrate into Irish society. It is important we bring that into it. I know the Minister made the point about IHAP but that legislation is only for the ten UNHCR-recognised conflict zones and gives priority to families that can meet the accommodation requirements of eligible family members. While the scheme would potentially provide a safe route to protection for some, it does not place the rights of refugee families on a statutory footing or address the family reunification needs of those who fall outside these provisions, including those who are outside the recognised conflict zones. Significant additional steps need to be taken to ensure that refugees in Ireland are able to realise their right to family life to benefit both refugees and the communities in which they live because we know people develop in a community when they have their family around them. In isolation, they find it very difficult to settle into a community.

This Bill seeks to amend the International Protection Act 2015 and return to the provisions that governed the Refugee Act 1996, which was both effective and fair. This Bill does not reverse or replace the 2015 Act but in the light of experience, seeks to review some of the changes introduced in 2015. The Bill is supported by Oxfam, the Irish Refugee Council and Nasc Ireland, all organisations that deal directly with the humanitarian crisis of people trying to reunite with their families. The Bill proposes to revert to the definition of "family" in the Refugee Act 1996, gives a more realistic timeframe for people to apply for family reunification, puts family reunification on a statutory basis and allows this Bill to come into force three months after the date of legislative approval. This will ensure a timely response to refugees and family members in crisis.

The Minister of State has said that he will not give a money message. He is closing the door. I think it is a disgrace and a scandal. I am disgusted that the Government has taken this position. The Minister of State is representing the Government and its policy. I still appeal to people in this House to support this Bill.

It is disappointing to hear the Government position on this. I do not necessarily take it as being 100% the Minister of State's position on it. He engaged well with this issue but I am sorry to say that for as long as I have been here, his Government's approach has left too much to be desired. It was at the height of the refugee crisis and in spite of the concerns raised by human rights watchdogs such as the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission that the previous Fine Gael-Labour Government chose actively to tighten the net on refugees. We should not be putting barriers in their way. I find it a bit disheartening.

In his speech, the Minister of State said that the financial impact of the proposal in the Bill does not really take on board the challenges of the country. It is not an "either or" case. We know the Government should be actively involved in providing housing and facilities for our own people and in many cases is not doing so because it has left it to the private sector to supply housing. Obviously, housing would have to be supplied if we allowed people into the country but the numbers are so small and this Bill only deals with dependents so they would not be moving into a different house but would be living with their families if their families had found a place here. It does not stack up. I find it mad that this money message prevents just about any Opposition position nowadays because if we want to make improvements very often they do cost money. Where is the joined-up thinking? I wish the Government was as concerned about the absolute scandal in NAMA, probably the biggest financial scandal in the history of this State. Over €20 billion has gone missing because of how NAMA has handled its affairs and nobody wants to hold it to account.

In the light of that, we are worried about the cost of a few relatives, family members, brothers or sisters coming who belong to families have been put through the throes of war. It is not as though we had nothing to do with it. We still allow Shannon Airport to be used as a US military base. The Minister of State does not want to talk about Shannon but it is fact. More than 65 million people on the planet are displaced and more than half of them have been displaced because of war. It is nuts.

I admire Trump's honesty. Two weeks ago, he was asked if he should stop selling arms to the Saudis because they were engaged in genocide in Yemen and it really was not on that the Americans would continue to supply them with arms. Trump said he was not sure about that. He said the Saudis would buy arms from the Russians or the Chinese. He said there were tens of thousands of jobs at stake in the arms that are going to the Saudis. It is the same argument that is used here for allowing Shannon to be used as a military base. People talk about the jobs it brings in and we are told that we cannot be frightening them away.

I was picked on by a fellow in Ennis once after I got over the fence in Shannon. He told me to stay out of that place because he sells sandwiches there. I am not supposed to be highlighting the fact that it is being used as a military base to allow the Americans to go and bomb the living daylights out of countries and create refugees who then try and come across the Mediterranean to get here with great difficulty. You would not be well.

The Minister of State spoke about the UN and said it was not some western power. I do not know if Deputy Clare Daly mentioned a western power. I wish the UN was a really independent body but, sadly, the UN, whether we like it or not, for all practical purposes is a puppet of the western powers today. That is the truth.

In 2011, Obama wanted regime change in Yemen because the guy there, Saleh, was not able to implement neoliberal policies across the country quickly enough for America's liking. They threw him out and put in their own fellow, Hadi. The internationally recognised government of Yemen is ruled by an American puppet, supported by the Saudis and the UN. Two years ago, when Yemen was being destroyed by the Saudis, with support from the US, UK and France, the UN told us almost 10,000 people were dead. It was the same the following year, and the year after that. They said again this year that only 10,000 were killed. What are they like?

The 2015 Act imposed a tight timeframe of one year within which applications for family reunification can be made. The one-year timeframe has made it extremely difficult for applicants. They have to apply within 12 months of being granted status. Many applications fail due to the tragic fact that it is extremely difficult to locate family members left behind in war zones within this restrictive timeframe.

Deputy Clare Daly and I know a refugee from Afghanistan. His father and brother were killed and he has refugee status in Ireland now. He does not know where his mother and sisters are. How can he make reunification happen? How can the Irish State do it for him within the time restrictions? I do not think it can. His story is not an isolated one.

I really hope there will be serious consideration given to what we discussed yesterday. I really believe the Government will have to look at other countries and not just prioritise Syria and Eritrea. As I said to the Minister yesterday, more than 1.5 million people have returned to Syria now that things are normalising somewhat again and the government is actually getting control of the place. They are getting rid of the jihadists who were mostly funded by the US, Israel and the Saudis. Unfortunately we have not been told the truth about Syria very much. On much of the news, even on RTÉ, they used to quote the White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as if they were independent entities. We eventually found out they are being funded by the Americans and the Brits, so the news outlets quote them less often now. The message was not a true message but it suited them. You would not be well looking at some of the Syrian groups on Twitter. They obviously have an agenda in how they portray what is going on over there. Some terrible things have happened, there is no doubt about it, but terrible things are happening in other places too.

It would be good if Ireland had a more open-door policy and took in a lot more people. The numbers we are talking about are pathetically low. The notion that Ireland could not handle 10,000 or 20,000 refugees is ridiculous. The population of Gorey increases fourfold in the summer. Gorey has a population of around 5,000 and it becomes about 20,000 in the summer. It manages. We are not talking about taking in 10,000 or 20,000 refugees and putting them all in the one place. There were 8 million people in this country when the Famine came in 1847. There is plenty of room for people in Ireland. We are not a densely populated country. We just need the will to help people that need and deserve it. God knows the Irish went all over the planet when they needed help, needed to work and needed to break out of poverty themselves. We need a warmer reception for these people.

I very much welcome the Bill and congratulate the Civil Engagement group in the Seanad. I see Senators Kelleher and Higgins are present, who I assume are the architects of this Bill. I feel proud that I am in a Parliament that gives a damn, tries to make things better for refugees and feels and sees that in very humane terms.

The measure is very simple. I thought this would be totally unnecessary before I read the Bill properly. The definition of family, as understood by most people, is not limited to one's wife and kids under 18, but extends to one's sisters, brothers, grandparents and adult children. That does not apply for refugees coming into the country. There is a different definition for their families. When we impose that different definition of what a family means on others who have settled here after fleeing war and persecution, we tell them their families mean less and their presence is, at best, tolerated here but is not really welcome and we do not want their grandparents, sisters and brothers joining them. This Bill is a necessary correction to previous legislation and a positive signal as to how we should treat migrants and others.

In war and incidents of catastrophe, such as great floods and droughts that usually emanate from climate change and global warming, which force people to get out of a country, the parents often are the first to die or to go missing. As they often are the first to be shot, killed or arrested, children are very often left in the care of grandparents and the parents' siblings. It is cruel and blinkered to disregard that.

I have just come from outside the gates of the Dáil where, for the first time in many decades, we have seen organised fascists on the street. The message on their placards, make no mistake about it, is that this is our country, our land in our lifetime. They are all white, male, Irish people who do not want to recognise refugees and want them off the streets and out of the country.

They are whipping up exaggerated panic here and across Europe about the UN compact on global migration, which is due to be signed in Marrakesh tomorrow. Like all fascists, they are doing this in an organised way on social media. What is being shared and put about on social media across Europe is, more or less, that the global migration pact is a threat to national culture, that it will end nations' sovereignty and that it will give 59 million migrants free access to Europe. It is being suggested that they will be coming into Dublin Airport tomorrow to demand housing and social welfare benefits. It is being stated that this is a giant plot by George Soros to liquidate our culture and our country - hence the slogan "Our country, our land, our culture in our lifetime". It is being suggested that the UN compact on global migration will prevent people from criticising any immigration policy under pain of jail and that free speech will be denied to those who are brave enough to speak out against the flood that is coming.

What does this compact actually do? I have explained the scaremongering that is going on. It is flying across Europe. There are Nazis outside the gates of this Parliament tonight. I want to analyse what the compact actually does. We need to listen to what others are saying about it. It does absolutely nothing for migrants. It is not legally binding. It imposes no obligation on any state. It confers no rights on any immigrants. It does not concede immigration policy to the UN, least of all to George Soros. The only reason it has been brought about is to co-ordinate a response to the crisis of people drowning in the Mediterranean or being humped off back to slave camps and detained in desperate conditions in Libya. It is being advanced by those who want a proper co-ordinated global response to this crisis. This does not mean that the response is about welcoming migrants, treating them well, giving them homes, giving them education or understanding that with every hungry belly comes a pair of hands and a brain. I think the latter point is a crucial argument that was missing from the Minister of State's response. We need more workers in this country.

Deputy Wallace referred to money that went missing from NAMA. There is no more knowledgeable source in this House on what could be done - and what needs to be done - regarding the housing crisis than Deputy Wallace. I was shocked to hear the Minister of State respond to the Deputy by expressing his opposition to this instrument on the basis that "local authorities, which are already feeling the strain of providing permanent housing for refugees in the midst of a national housing crisis, would be required to provide additional houses in their areas for the extended family members proposed under the Bill even while we are struggling to identify and share these potential resources throughout the country for those in immediate danger". He said that this "would have significant and unquantifiable impacts on the provision of housing, healthcare, education, welfare payments and other State supports". This sort of rhetoric feeds into the organisation of nasty right-wing racists in countries across Europe. I know the Minister of State is not a Nazi. I know he is a decent man. I am not accusing him of being a racist. However, I think it is dangerous that the signal being sent by the Government in this context is that we cannot look after our own. We have to start asking who "our own" are.

The Deputy should read the rest of what I said.

Who are our own? Are they the very wealthy people who sink their money offshore or avail of tax loopholes so that they do not have to pay their fair share? Are they the people who lost the €20 billion that we cannot find from NAMA, as Deputy Wallace mentioned earlier? Are they the people in the financial centre on the docks who are insisting that we keep €13 billion of Apple money in an escrow account? The resources are there to look after everybody, but they are not being shared equally. The resources are there to look after the grandparents, sisters and brothers of the most unfortunate migrants who already live here. I think this rhetoric is unhelpful in the extreme.

I want to return to the facts of what will happen in Marrakesh tomorrow. Many countries are signing up to the global compact and many countries are popping out of it. Many people, including some who are quite conservative, have said it does not go far enough. According to one commentator:

In fact, the Global Compact – which aims to promote international co-operation on migration flows – is a vague, non-binding document full of long-winded, gobbledygook claptrap that includes a few worthy principles and a couple of dumb ideas. But it won’t force anyone to do anything.

The compact is being used by certain people as an excuse to mobilise racist sentiment. Deputies should be aware that such sentiment is often mobilised on the basis of scarcity of resources. We live in a country that has a housing crisis. It also has a health crisis, with trolleys choking up the corridors of accident and emergency departments everywhere. It cannot look after the special needs of children in its schools even though it has one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe. There is something fundamentally wrong about the way we share our resources. If we are saying we are not going to look after migrants because of the crises I have mentioned, we are sending the wrong signal. We need to come in here every day to demand that wealth is shared equally and that resources are used to look after everybody. There is only one race and it is called the human race. I know the Minister of State agrees with that, but we have to start practising it, believing it and implementing it in our policies. The Bill before the House is a small measure that would go a great way to recognising that.

I repeat that nobody goes anywhere and expects a free ticket. People do not want to sit on their backsides and live off welfare payments. The vast majority of human beings want to use their ability, their work and their intelligence to have an impact on the society they live in. Part of the solution is to give people the right to work. We have debated the rights of people in direct provision previously. This legislation represents a way of starting to recognise that there is a crisis among families living here. They are unable to access their own loved ones and the supports that such access would bring. I do not know whether the Minister of State has ever tried to put himself in their shoes. I have often tried to put myself in their shoes. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in the utter misery, heartbreak, sorrow, isolation and loneliness in which they live. They encounter further difficulties of culture and language and they may meet hostility on the streets. I plead with the Minister of State to talk to his Government colleagues about not opposing this Bill. If we do not take positive measures aimed at being inclusive with regard to immigration, we will feed into the sort of filth that is outside the gates tonight and against which we need to build a strong message. I would like the Minister of State to ask the Cabinet to reconsider its position on this Bill and to give it its full support.

This Bill is very welcome. It is a great piece of work that has come to us at this stage. It is probably appropriate that it is in front of the House at this time of year. I have known the Minister of State well for many years. I do not think the words he has read reflect where he has been and where he would like to be. I think the way in which the straight dismissal of this Bill has been stated is the wrong approach. Following a meeting of the Committee on Procedure earlier this week, it was announced that new Standing Orders in respect of money messages are to come before this House on Tuesday week. They will provide, for the first time, for a system that will allow Private Members' Bills proposed by Opposition Deputies and Government backbenchers to progress through the Houses. Under the new approach, when there is a flaw in such a Bill, the flaw will be addressed as part of a collaborative approach and the Bill as a whole will not be rejected. The Government's first port of call will not be to dismiss the Bill out of hand.

I understand the Minister of State's point that ministerial discretion must be retained. He is a benevolent man. Other Ministers in his position have been quite open too. However, there have also been horrendous Ministers in the Department of Justice and Equality over the years. I know that every time a case came before them, they refused it point blank.

There have been horrendous people in the Department who have continually refused applications which on appeal, even though there is no appeal, had to be upheld or overturned. In every system there is good and bad. Ministerial discretion can often lead to bad policy. We experience it in the House when somebody comes to us. Some of the organisations that have helped to facilitate the Bill such as Oxfam or the Irish Refugee Council come to us. We will highlight it on Joe Duffy's show. We know if we put enough pressure on Joe Duffy, The Star, The Sun or whatever vehicle we use to profile a case, the Minister has the discretion which he will use rather than take the flak from the public. There have been recent cases of deportation orders sitting there when all of a sudden the Minister wheels in and, bang, there is no problem and it is sorted. It is the same type of discretion. We have had policies of discretion over the years in other areas of Government policy. Look at what some of those led us to. I am not saying it is black and white but we need to remind ourselves who we are talking about. We are talking about people who have been separated as a result of wars, humanitarian crises and calamities. In some cases, they have been separated because we facilitated wars through Shannon. We have contributed to them ending up arriving on our shores. We have seen it in Yemen where whole villages have disappeared. A family member might not be a blood relative but the last surviving resident of a town that has been obliterated. It might be a tsunami. It might be a humanitarian disaster. The concept of family can be slightly different from that which refers to a direct relative.

It is important we also take note of what has already been said in the Houses of the Oireachtas by Senator Kelleher and others who have discussed it in the Seanad and members of my party and others who have supported it. The report of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on the refugee crisis is also supportive of the Bill. In a recommendation on family unification it called on the Government to introduce a humanitarian admissions programme to offer a safe and legal route for people to flee conflicts and be reunited with family members. The Minister of State announced some of the steps being taken. The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, made an announcement about 36 unaccompanied minors earlier today. We welcome it. They will reach here and in a year's time if they have not managed to locate their families it will be their hard luck. It will be as if they have no family members and they do not exist. If, in five years' time, the family appears, the Government has made it much more difficult.

The Bill is not complete. We can add to it. It could amend section 56(9) of the Act to clarify that a sponsor can include a person who applied for protection as a minor but did not receive the positive direction until after he or she aged out. I am frustrated listening to the debate. Perhaps I am here too long. I have listened to many debates on immigration and refugee issues. I would love if the bureaucracy was at an end. In his speech, the Minister of State praised Ireland as one of the most accessible in the EU. God love us. I do not think so. I have not heard that from anyone in Europe. The Minister of State stated in his speech "Our current legal provisions remain the most accessible in the EU and our discretionary humanitarian responses are to the forefront of European initiatives." There are countries that close all their borders and do exactly what those idiots outside the House will do. I welcome we do not have that approach in Ireland. There are other countries that are a lot more open.

I will get the Minister of State the list.

Will the Deputy name them now? Which ones?

Germany and Britain.

Some of the Scandinavian countries, although some of them are going back on their provisions. Some of them are tightening up. We have not been ahead of the posse on this. There are very few countries, if any, in Europe that will leave a refugee in an application centre or a refugee detention centre for 11 years.

That is different.

It is not different. It is the whole process. We cannot say one thing is different. It is about the combination and the approach. It is the bureaucracy.

The Deputy is mixed up.

I am not mixing it up at all. If the Government cannot get it right in one part of the refugee system-----

The Deputy is mixed up.

The Minister of State cannot understand the perception. I was not the one who said it was on one specific issue. The Minister of State spoke about the system, the legal provisions and our humanitarian responses.

I support the Bill. I urge the Minister of State not to reject it and to allow it to go to Committee Stage. We can have the debate in committee and tease it out line-by-line if required to make it more usable if it does not fit the neat criteria that sometimes is required. At the end of the day we are talking about families. We are talking about trying to reunite human beings with each other to get the comfort that is required so they can build a new life in Ireland. That is what they are doing. They should do so but with whatever supports we can provide. It has been proven across the world that if one has family support in refugee cases, it makes it much easier to integrate and survive in a new country. The alternative is, as others have said, that after a number of years some people who arrive in Ireland, whether in a case such as this or a refugee case, want to go back to where they came from because of the welcome they got in Ireland.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. I thank Deputy Clare Daly, who secured the time for the Bill through the Business Committee. I acknowledge the work of Senator Kelleher, the Irish Refugee Council and Oxfam, representatives of which are in the Public Gallery. I acknowledge the presence of Senator Higgins who has been a great supporter of Senator Kelleher in getting it to this stage. Fianna Fáil will continue to support the Bill. Fianna Fáil supported the passage of the International Protection Act 2015 as it provided for the introduction of a single procedure for international protection applications. It was a key recommendation of the McMahon working group on direct provision. The old system led to excessive delays in processing applications resulting in asylum seekers spending many years awaiting a decision on their application.

Since the Act commenced there has been a reduction in the time spent in direct provision, which we welcome. I acknowledge a commitment was made to provide for 4,000 refugees at the height of the refugee crisis and another to provide for the 200 unaccompanied minors. A number of issues have arisen regarding the implementation of these commitments. The number of refugees Ireland received was less than the target. These issues are not relevant to tonight's debate. The issue is that the legislation has led to deeply inhumane situations. Families have been unable to trace children within a year and have lost the right to family reunification.

There are numerous cases and Deputy Clare Daly spoke about them earlier. I will tell the Minister of State about a case in my constituency of a young man who came here seeking asylum.

Where did he come from?

He is from Syria. He Skypes his mother daily. He has now reached 18 years of age. His time lapsed by the time he was put into care, through foster care and everything else. He did not know his rights. He did not know anything. The year has gone and he has not had the opportunity to apply for reunification. He Skypes his mother daily but, because of his age, he has fallen through the cracks. It is plain that is the cost of the changes, which took place in 2015.

During the debates on the original Bill, we made clear our reservations and concerns about a number of areas and we brought forward amendments on foot of those concerns. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission recommended that consideration be given to a range of family relationships to which Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights can apply in the context of this legislative proposal. The Act does not provide any means for a refugee or person eligible for subsidiary protection to apply for family reunification with other dependent family members, including parents, wards, grandchildren and adult children. The Refugee Act 1996 included the possibility for refugees to apply for dependent family members, meaning any grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, grandchild, ward or guardian of the refugee who is dependent on the refugee or is suffering from a mental or physical disability to such an extent that it is not reasonable for him or her to maintain himself or herself fully.

In plain English, what I am trying to say is that what happened in 2015 in some respects has not worked. We cannot say that what is the value of one family in one country is not the value in another. We all know here that family is mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandparent no matter what length of time it takes to reunify the family in this country. Whether it be children who were adopted with no rights in the past who had no access to knowing their true relationships at all times or whoever, and given the way we talk about our deep dark past, of which the Minister, Deputy Zappone, is at pains to remind us, we are now starting to see the value of family reunification. That process could take the guts of ten, 20 or 30 years. What we are saying to refugees coming into this country is that, unless they get there in a year, the game is up. That is the flaw in the 2015 measure that we should consider. I agree with Deputy Bríd Smith that there is a necessary correction. It is as simple as that.

It is disappointing that the Government is not in a position to support the Bill. This is an issue that will not go away. Senator Colette Kelleher has support in the Seanad. Deputy Clare Daly has the support of the majority in this House. Unfortunately, it is something that will continue to be discussed. It is something on which we must achieve balance because we cannot say that refugees can come into this country and not have the right to family reunification.

As I stated, my party is supportive of this. I would like to think that somewhere along the line we could let this go to committee, as Deputy Ó Snodaigh stated, to be teased out to such a degree that we can reach a positive resolution.

Part of the frustration here is that there is much technical detail involved in this procedure.

Deputy Rabbitte mentioned a young man. That young man can make a proposal under IHAP. There is nothing stopping him from doing that. The Act also requires, because the Deputy mentioned something about him not knowing what to do, Tusla to consult a legal adviser in the application for status for an unaccompanied minor. I am sad to say as well that the Deputy is incorrect in this regard.

I must point out the recipients of subsidiary protection can apply for family reunification here, but not in other countries. The Deputy made a number of mistakes in her speech. The Deputy was factually wrong in what she said. That young man can apply under IHAP, and also people in subsidiary protection can apply for family reunification here, but not in other countries. Deputies need to get the facts of what we are talking about right here.

We are concerned about using the resources to assist family members in other countries who are under terrible pressure and to bring them here. I listed the ten countries that we are focusing on that the UNHCR had recommended. That list can change. As I understand it, the list will be reviewed in July. We want to put our resources into those ten countries.

Anyone outside the year that was mentioned can avail of the non-EEA policy document as applied by INIS. Therefore, there is another pathway that the Deputy obviously is not aware of.

I am aware of them. There are many State agencies which are not aware of all of this.

I am merely stating the facts here.

I am merely stating the facts too.

Earlier, Deputy Rabbitte mentioned IHAP and listed a number of family members. I point out that the Deputy's definition of family is covered by the Act, and by IHAP as well.

There is a lot going on here. In a way, it is a pity that we do not have pre-legislative scrutiny of Private Members' Bills. All Government Bills must go through pre-legislative scrutiny and they have to be analysed and studied and go through all kinds of grief before they reach here. I did a lot of that when I was Chairman of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality. It is very valuable. All these technical issues can be teased out. However, that is not possible before the Bills reach here.

On a point of information, if the Bill passes here on Second Stage, it then goes to pre-legislative scrutiny, a message comes back to the Dáil, the Dáil decides whether that is accepted, and then a money message is issued.

That is fine but there is no provision for such cross-debate in the House now. Unfortunately, we are running out of time.

I reassure Deputy Joan Collins that Ireland is to the fore in responding to humanitarian crises. We are one of the four countries to pioneer search and rescue. We were the only country to offer Calais unaccompanied minors guaranteed programme refugee status. We stated up to 200 - we never stated "200" - in the motion and we made 15 different trips out there to see if we could identify people who wanted to come here. We are among the few EU member states to offer shelter to those stranded on boats in the Mediterranean.

Operation Sophia is saving nobody.

The NGOs quoted as supporting this Bill also welcomed IHAP. It is clear to all that the situation that existed around the time of the 1996 Act has changed radically. That is why we are among the few countries proactively delivering on humanitarian responses in a compassionate and timely way.

IHAP is very flexible and that is why we have it. Deputy Rabbitte was not in the House when I quoted the numbers who, in a very short time, we will be bringing here under IHAP. It really works. It is flexible and the Minister has discretion. The Bill that the Deputies are supporting now gets rid of that discretion and could do a pile of damage, and that is my concern.

In some EU countries, the time limit is three months and economic conditions apply. Our legislation does not do that. In Germany, anyone granted subsidiary protection was prohibited from family reunification for the past two years. We allow such applications.

I join Deputy Wallace in commending Wexford, his constituency, because it has been at the forefront in welcoming refugees. Maybe the Deputy has something to do with that. The Wexford local authority is to be commended on its welcoming and housing of refugees.

Unfortunately, I am aware of the protests outside. I, myself, have been targeted quite a bit because of this recently.

Ireland has played a positive role in the global compact. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, will sign it next week on behalf of the country. Many other countries have pulled out of that.

I also make the point that family reunification is not about breaking up family units abroad to extend the family unit here. We must be careful about that too. We are focusing on families who very much need our humanitarian assistance now. That is what we want to do. That is what IHAP does.

I urge Deputies to think again about supporting this Bill. Members know me as passionate about this. This Bill, I believe, can do a lot more harm than good. I ask the Deputies to look at it again and withdraw it and let us have another think about it, maybe in the committee. Maybe the committee could convene and discuss the Bill beforehand. We are definitely not in the position.

I thank the Minister of State.

I could go on for another hour about this but, unfortunately, I do not have the time.

We would be happy to spend another hour and we badly need it. There have been some very serious points raised and there have been some incredibly inaccurate statements put on the record.

They were not put on the record by Deputy Rabbitte: the Minister of State's own statements were inaccurate as well. I will deal with them as they come up.

I have never seen a situation where the Government comes to the House with a Bill and, in the speech before the debate takes place, its representatives say they will not allow it to go further. I might be wrong and they might have done it before. Anyway, it is utterly scandalous that they would do so on such an important humanitarian issue.

I have said why.

It is really not on. The rationale is somewhat concerning and does not reflect the generally good approach of the Minister of State to these issues. Deputy Wallace is right: the conflation of our need to provide services to refugees and asylum seekers alongside the housing crisis and all the other problems does indeed contribute to the racist view that refugees and migrants are the cause of these problems. The Minister of State may want to go back and look to whoever wrote the speech for him, because it was heading in that direction.

I am appalled by the fact that our Government is congratulating Ireland and the fact that we have managed to pick up the E3 visas the Australians are not going to use. These American visas were negotiated with the Australian Government in thanks and recognition for the help the Australians gave the Americans in the Iraq war. We are congratulating ourselves that we are going to be given access to the visas that the Australians do not use. Yet, we are not going to provide refuge or family reunification for the victims of the Iraq war. This Government will not do that.

I will set out some examples. The example given by Deputy Wallace related to the 18 year old who was from Syria. The Minister of State is absolutely right in that a Syrian in that situation could apply under the humanitarian scheme because he is from one of the top ten countries. He could fight it out and he may or may not get it. However, if that young man was from Iraq, he would not get it. He would not be on the list. The Minster of State asked me for an example of the scenario and said he would deal with such cases. I will set out the scenario for the Minister of State. It is clear from the Act. It states that where the sponsor is under 18 and not married, then his or her parents and their children who, on the date of the application, are under the age of 18 years can come. By default, it is perfectly clear that if the person is not under 18 years, he cannot bring his parents because nowhere else in the text is there mention of parents. The point is that if someone comes here who is under the age of 18 years, he or she cannot get status before that and so the person cannot bring his or her parents.

I am not going to repeat the examples given but the Minister of State is wrong to point out that the Act was passed by a big majority in this House. As Deputy Rabbitte correctly said, it was passed by a big majority in the House but now we have seen the consequences of that Act. We have seen some of the problems that it has caused for families on the basis of the scientific study done by Roisin Hynes.

The examples I gave earlier are real. One relates to a Syrian who came here. By the time he found his daughter – she was a 19 year old – he could not bring her here because 12 months had elapsed. An African woman in direct provision was there for so long that one of her daughters was 20 years of age when she went to make the application. Her younger children would not come because they did not want to leave the 20 year old on her own. I referred to the granny left in Greece. These are real cases. They are not made up.

We are not talking about major numbers. It is completely wrong for the Minister of State to talk about an open-ended scheme and broadening the definition. He referred to a drain on resources and how houses and so on will have to be provided. I think this Bill should be amended because it is too restrictive. We all talking about dependants. A dependant is not going to require a separate house. We are talking about small numbers of people. All we are looking for is reinstatement of the scheme that was in place previously. Under that scheme, on average, two people applied with every family. Thus, it is not true to say this will cause a vast drain on the resources.

It is also not true to say that the humanitarian scheme is a better scheme. For starters, we do not oppose it. The Minister of State can have the humanitarian scheme. No one is objecting to that. It is fine. If the Minister of State thinks it is brilliant and that it is working, then he should carry on. Bringing in this legislation will not stop him doing that. However, this measure will give more opportunity. That scheme is limited to 530 places. It is rather restrictive even in the context of the small numbers of refugees to which we have given asylum. If a person is from Iraq or is a Shia in Bahrain who is being persecuted or is a person in Yemen, then it is tough luck. Such people are not covered by the humanitarian scheme. It is only those from the top ten countries. Other people are excluded. The people who came here under 18 years of age are excluded as well. They cannot bring their parents. We are condemning them to remain here alone.

The Minister of State said to Deputy Rabbitte that, apart from the humanitarian scheme in respect of which all the people I mentioned cannot apply, others can come here under the non-EEA national permit. A person must earn €30,000 per year to avail of that scheme. It is not really accessible to someone who comes here seeking asylum. Such people are not really in that jobs market or on that type of money. That is not an avenue for these vulnerable people. It is disingenuous of the Minister of State to say as much.

I totally agree with the points made by Deputy Ó Snodaigh. He said the idea that we are ahead of the posse and to the forefront on these initiatives is absolutely ridiculous.

The Minister of State referred to the remit of Operation Sophia. Finally, we managed to get the Minister of State with responsibility for Defence to admit it is a military operation. It is written in the terms of the Act that it is a military operation. Doctors Without Borders representatives told the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence that the operation is helping the Libyan coast guard to return people to rape, slavery, torture and murder. That is the purpose of the operation. If the Minister of State is proud of that, then fair play to him, but I am utterly ashamed of it. I am particularly ashamed of it because we are complicit given that we allow the use of Shannon for many of the wars that displace these people in the first place.

I was going to make numerous points about where we have let people down. One relates to unaccompanied minors that we have let down in the past. They came into our care system. We should remember that 454 separated children in Ireland went missing in Ireland between 2000 and 2008. Only 58 ever turned up. There is suspicion of them being pimped and trafficked and so on. Obviously, that situation improved when we changed the system and we ensured those unaccompanied minors were not brought to hostels but accommodated with families and linked up with social workers and so on. We have a good scheme now for that so the numbers were impacted. We have learned from the mistakes of the policies that we put in place. That is what we want the Minister of State to do in this case.

It is a fact that the only people who can be included now are people who are under 18 years of age, spouses and children under 18 years of age. The Government is leaving out many vulnerable dependants. We are talking about small numbers. If we could get this to Committee Stage, I would like to see the measures extended. I will offer as an example the case of a family that I am friendly with. The family includes a young man who came here when he was under 18 years of age. He is still under 18 years. His mother and his younger brother have joined him. His older brother is the only person left. He is at home on his own and they are all over here. Under this Bill, even if it was passed, I do not believe he would qualify. How could I say that the brother left at home is dependent on a 17 year old who is the unaccompanied minor? That is how restrictive this Bill is. As Senator Kelleher has said, it is an incredibly modest proposal. It will not even deal with many of the families who we would like to help to reunite. It sends altogether the wrong signal if the Government does not go back between now and next Thursday, when this will be voted upon, to look at it again. This applies in particular to the Minister of State, who has been to the forefront on these issues. Much of the criticism by the Minister of State of Deputy Rabbitte was wrong and factually inaccurate in terms of what the legislation provides for now. Again, the Minister of State has hidden behind the humanitarian scheme. No one is asking the Minister of State to replace the humanitarian scheme. We are asking the Minister of State to go back and recognise the proper definition of family for the purposes of reunification under the International Protection Act.

I appeal to the Minister of State to go back and look at it again. If the Minister of State really believes that he wants to help people, then he should go back and look at the facts. We are talking about small numbers of people who have been caught in that trap. We are talking about dependency. We are talking about vulnerable people. We will be leaving them high and dry if this Bill does not progress.

This Bill will progress and it will be passed by this House, but blocking it with a money message would be particularly disingenuous, especially in light of the point made by Deputy Ó Snodaigh that the system of money messaging will change soon. How many families will be destroyed in the meantime?

Question put.

In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 13 December 2018.

The Dáil adjourned at 8.10 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 December 2018.