Immigration Law in Ireland lacks both consistency and clarity. In many cases applications are many on a discretionary basis, without clear or understandable guidelines for the decision making process. This means that whether a person can start their life in Ireland, have a family member join them, begin a new job or even safely provide for themselves when leaving an abusive partner can depend on the immigration officer whose desk the application lands on. We have seen similar applications receive significantly different responses, with little or no explanation as to why.
Firstly we need to recognise there are populations in severe need right now, including those fleeing war and violence, who need immediate assistance. Ireland could and should provide the option of safe legal passage on compassionate grounds by extending the Humanitarian Access Programme to extreme cases.
If a person feels their application was not handled fairly and wish to appeal it, there is no fully transparent and independent way to do this. Instead a person in this situation has to start their application again, facing back into a lengthy delay for a decision without having certainty of the outcome they can expect.
This certainly goes against best practice and means that Ireland’s immigration laws are behind the times. The Irish Government recognised the issues with our current system, promising comprehensive reform of the immigration system over a decade ago, yet this has fallen off the political radar.
With increasing anti-immigration sentiments internationally, we risk an uphill battle trying to ensure fair and open immigration procedures are introduced in Ireland. We believe clearer structures alongside a fair appeals mechanism are essential to ensure that we respect everyone’s dignity and rights. Not only are such laws crucial for migrant people hoping to live and work in Ireland, but they are also important to ensure that we do not waste State time and resources on lengthy and unnecessary administrative processes.
It is important that data on migration to Ireland is gathered and published annually. The lack of comprehensive and comparable data on migration to Ireland is a block to proper planning and an inclusive democracy. With this data we would be able to have evidence based planning for schools, infrastructure and integration strategies.
We need a way for people who become trapped in irregular or undocumented immigration situations to be given an opportunity to regularise their situation without fear. Ireland is also missing an effective system for identifying persons as stateless through a national statelessness determination procedure and a statutory definition of the rights of stateless persons once recognised.
Many of these issues are among those regularly presented to our Information and Referral Service and our Law Centre. In the absence of a clear immigration system, resolving these problems can be a lengthy and complicated process. In the future we hope to see a fair, open and comprehensive immigration system and taking the experience of our legal team will work with partners and State agencies to make this a reality.
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