Thursday, 8 June 2006
Question 1: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if all the non-Irish, non-British nationals who were released from prison since the coming into effect of the Immigration Act 1999 were considered for deportation; if not, the reason; the number of such persons who were considered for deportation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22256/06]
I refer the Deputy to the replies I gave to Questions Nos. 84 to 88, inclusive, of 10 May 2006, 190 of 4 May 2006 and 470 of 3 May 2006.
There is no provision in Irish law for the automatic deportation or judicially ordered deportation of a non-national who has committed a criminal offence. In this respect our system is somewhat different from that which operates in the United Kingdom and which gave rise to recent controversy there. It has long being the practice of Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to give consideration to deportation in particular cases where a non-national has been convicted of a serious offence. Until recently such cases were relatively isolated and the volume was small. However, due to the significant increase in non-nationals in recent years, I have introduced a new system which has been in place since May 2005 whereby the case of every non-EU national imprisoned is brought up for consideration.
Deportations in these situations are quite complex. Any person to be deported must first be served with a written notice of intention to deport, as provided for under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, which advises each individual of the options open to him or her at that time, namely, to consent to deportation, to agree to return voluntarily to the country of origin or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations to the Minister setting out reasons he or she should not be deported. Where the third option is availed of, any written representations submitted by or on behalf of the person in question is considered before a final decision is taken as to whether that person should be the subject of a deportation order. It is my intention to address expedited deportation procedures in the forthcoming immigration residence and protection Bill.
With regard to specific numbers of non-Irish, non-British nationals who were released from prison since the coming into effect of the Immigration Act 1999, I mentioned in reply to a Parliamentary Question of 10 May last that my Department is compiling these figures. I remind the Deputy that EU nationals have the right to be here and if an EU national is sentenced for something such as a public order offence, it does not follow as a consequence that the person will be deported when released from prison. When analysis of the figures is completed, I will be in a position to respond in a more detailed way to the Deputy and I will supply him with the information as soon as the exercise is completed.
As the Deputy is aware, the provisions relating to the removal of non-nationals from the State are being considered in the context of the Bill I mentioned.
Despite the fact that I raised the issue on two previous occasions in the House, can the Minister not tell us yet how many non-national prisoners released from prison over the past six years were not considered for deportation under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999? Can he not tell us how many so released have re-offended and have further convictions or are before our courts on further charges?
Why was the information I requested on two occasions in the Dáil — on 10 and 23 May — not furnished? Did the Minister have the information and fail to give it or did he not have the information, thereby demonstrating he is not able to do his job under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999?
What was the process put in place after the 1999 Act provided for the deportation of non-national prisoners by ministerial order? The Minister referred to the fact that a systematic process was put in place. Is it not correct that the process was only begun this time last year? Furthermore, is it not correct that the necessary liaison between the Irish Prison Service, the Courts Service and other bodies, including the Minister's office, was only put in place six or seven weeks ago, coincidentally or otherwise around the time of the furore which led to the departure of the then UK Home Secretary, Mr. Charles Clarke, because of the same issue?
It is not the same issue, but a radically different one, because in Britain the judiciary apparently has power to order the deportation of persons it sends to prison. We do not have that system and whether we should have it is a policy judgment matter. To give the Deputy an example of the issue in question, whether somebody here for five years who is given a one month sentence for being drunk and disorderly should be deported as a further consequence of having served that term of imprisonment is a matter on which there could be two views. Non-nationals here help to build up our economy and are welcome while they are law-abiding citizens. However, where they breach the law, it does not follow under Irish law that either the Judiciary or the Minister is obliged to push them out of the country regardless of their circumstances or of whether the person is the mother of a family who are Irish citizens.
The Deputy should not be simplistic. This is not a Charles Clarke situation and there is no smoking gun.
I am answering the questions, but the Deputy is throwing ridiculous shapes. It is an absurdity, for example, to suggest that the non-national mother of Irish children attending school here who is up on a shop-lifting charge should be considered for deportation——
The Deputy's question implies that every non-national released from prison should be considered for deportation. I regard that as xenophobic nonsense. The Deputy should be more careful about what he says.
I reject entirely the Minister's suggestion of xenophobia. All I am asking is for him to do his job under the Act. I remind him that under the same Act, the courts in Ireland have the right to make a recommendation on deportation.
The Minister has not answered my questions today nor did he answer them on 10 or 23 May. Does he have available to him the figures for the number of non-nationals released from prison or the number considered by him for deportation? Is it correct that in the entire period since 1999, or for the period for which he gave one answer — the past 12 months — only four such people have been deported? Has he information as to offences committed by such people? Has he made inquiries of the Garda to obtain the relevant information which I sought in the public interest.
All I want are the facts; we can draw conclusions afterwards. Why is the Minister hiding the facts or putting up a smokescreen pretending the facts are not available? What we are getting is reaction politics as opposed to the Minister showing he has done his job. What he has shown so far is that he has not done his job. He does not have the information.