Tuesday, 3 October 2006
Question 129: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of non-Irish nationals, in each of the years 2000 to 2005, who were eligible to be considered for deportation pursuant to section 3(2)([i]a[/i]) of the Immigration Act 1999, having served a term of imprisonment; the number of such non-Irish nationals who were so considered; the number of such non-Irish nationals who were subsequently deported; and his views on whether adequate procedures were in place until recently to ensure that such cases were given proper consideration. [30827/06]
I refer the Deputy to my replies to a series of parliamentary questions which he asked earlier this year and in particular my reply to his written Question No. 468 of 27 June 2006. Since then a comprehensive reply to these queries issued to him from my office on 20 September 2006.
By way of background, it should be noted that the effect of a deportation order when served on a person is that the person concerned is legally obliged to leave the State and to thereafter remain out of the State. In addition, it should be borne in mind that while section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, which is the relevant legislation in this area, provides for a deportation order to be made in a variety of circumstances, set out in paragraphs (a) to (i) of that section, in practical terms, deportation orders tend to be made based on the provisions of section 3(2)(f) of the Act, that is, where the person concerned has failed all stages of the asylum process, and section 3(2)(i) of the Act, where the person concerned has otherwise become illegal in the State, such as where they have overstayed a work permit, a study or holiday visa or the like. It should also be borne in mind that all deportation orders, regardless of the specified headings they are made under, are equal in value, legally and operationally. For instance, a person who would be liable to deportation on the grounds of a prison sentence might also be liable to be deported as someone who has overstayed, and so the effect is the same.
The Deputy will appreciate that each case is considered on its individual merits having regard to the gravity of the offence committed as well as what, if any, other connection each individual has to the State. For example, if a non-EU national prisoner has a legal entitlement to be in the State as a recognised refugee or as a person who has availed of EU treaty rights through marriage to an Irish or EU national, they would clearly be less likely to be deported. Where a person has been here for some time and their children have settled here it would be necessary to consider very carefully the impact that deportation would have on the family unit. The mere fact that somebody is a foreign national and is sent to jail in Ireland would not justify me, on the basis of proportionality, putting that person out of the country on foot of a deportation order, if I came to the view that they were the breadwinner for children who are Irish citizens or if they were married to an Irish citizen or if there were other circumstances that would make it disproportionate to deport them.
My officials have identified a total of 662 non-EU national sentenced prisoners who were released from prison between 2001 and May 2006. Computerised records are not available for 2000. The figures I have included in the two tables cover the period from 2001 to 22 May 2006. For the Deputy's information, these figures have been broken down by reference to the nature of the offences in respect of which the persons concerned were convicted and subsequently imprisoned. It should be noted that in the case of prisoners who may have committed more than one offence, the more serious offence is shown.
In the context of the table, the category of "Other" includes persons convicted of public order and other relatively low-scale offences. The category of "Offences Against the Person" includes a case where a life was lost with manslaughter being the nature of the case in question. The person convicted of this manslaughter was subsequently deported. No cases of murder were involved.
Of the total of 662 persons included in these records, some 252 show up as having no resident status. This would suggest the persons concerned were either captured on official records under another alias or may be persons who had arrived illegally in the State and were never captured on official departmental records such as they might have been had they participated in the asylum, visa or work permit processes. It could also include short-term tourists who did not require a visa but committed an offence while in Ireland.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
Of the 252 persons shown as having no resident status, the vast majority of them are included in the less serious categories of offence and it would not have been necessary to deport them on completion of their term of imprisonment.
Table 2 provides an annualised picture of the non-EEA throughput from the prison system broken down by offence.
While the level of deportations as outlined in Table 1 is substantial, particularly with regard to certain offences, for example drugs offences, it does not follow that all other persons referred to on the list are still residing in the State. The reality is that many people leave the State on completion of their sentence. Except in the most serious cases, where it is clear a person is leaving the State and highly unlikely to return, deportation will not be necessary as removal is already achieved. The objective for the State is that the person leaves the territory and does not return. In effect, deportation is an instrument intended to remove persons from the State who would otherwise be likely either to remain or to attempt to return.
I have stated before that my Department and the Garda National Immigration Bureau have an ongoing information exchange with the Irish Prison Service through which medium my Department and the GNIB are made aware of the release dates of convicted non-EU national prisoners. This exchange has been in place for a number of years and was reviewed and further enhanced in May 2005 since which time lists of all non-EU prisoners due for release have been forwarded to the GNIB and considered for possible deportation. Details of the offences involved are also included, as are the nationalities of the prisoners in question. Based on this information, my Department provides information to the Irish Prison Service of the immigration status of the persons concerned and, where appropriate, prepares the paperwork necessary to have outstanding cases finalised, where possible, in advance of the planned release date.
|Breakdown of offence and status||Deported||Legally resident in the State||Position in the State under consideration||Evaded deportation||Without resident status||Total|
|Offences against the person*||18||13||12||3||18||64|
|Offences against property||35||25||36||10||66||172|
|*Includes one case of Manslaughter where the offender was deported.|
|**Includes one case of Dangerous Driving Causing Death where the offender is now an EU citizen.|
|***Both of these people are believed to have left the State.|
|****A significant number of these people are believed to have left the State upon release.|
|Breakdown of Release Date by Year|
|Type of offence/Year||2001||2002||2003||2004||2005||2006||Total|
|Offences against the person||7||9||15||15||15||3||64|
|Offences against property||23||28||43||39||30||9||172|
I have raised the issue of the exercise, or perhaps more correctly the non-exercise, by the Tánaiste of a specific executive function bestowed on him by the Immigration Act 1999. As is clear from the question, I wish to know how many serious criminals, who should at least have been considered by him or his predecessor for deportation, having served a term of imprisonment, are roaming the countryside. The Tánaiste does not appear to know and the House does not know. The House cannot know as I raised the issue in a series of nine parliamentary questions before the recess and did not get the information. I am not getting the information now. Having failed to get it through the parliamentary process, I raised it by way of a freedom of information request. I was advised by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform that I would have a decision by 1 September.
The Tánaiste might confirm that in a moment. Finally last week I got six pages of a response to my parliamentary questions from the Tánaiste. However, they do not give replies to the questions I asked. No amount of evasion or obfuscation will get away from the basic point of what we seek here. I am looking for information relating to the exercise by the Tánaiste of a power conferred on him by the Immigration Act 1999. How many non-Irish nationals in each year up to 2005 were eligible to be considered for deportation pursuant to section (3)(2)(a) of the Act? How many of these non-Irish nationals were considered by him for deportation and how many, as of today, have been deported? That is the information I sought last April when I first tabled these questions and the information the Tánaiste has failed to furnish.
He has given me information on improvements in the system, on better liaison between different bodies under his aegis from the point of view of keeping track on such presence. The Tánaiste might like to comment on whether the improvement in such liaison occurred at approximately the same time as the departure from office of Charles Clarke as Home Secretary in the UK because of this very issue. One way or the other, I want to know how many such people roaming the countryside should have been considered for deportation, how many were considered and how many were deported. Despite all the obfuscation and evasion the Tánaiste has not yet furnished that information. I ask him to do so now.
Of course I noted that in a rather derivative way the Deputy thought that he could ask the same questions of me that Charles Clarke was asked as British Home Secretary leading to particular embarrassment for himself. However, the Deputy should have consulted the Statute Book and realised that a very different legal position pertained in Britain in that the Judiciary there could order deportation, whereas——
The Deputy should let me answer the question instead of just shouting. In Britain, the Judiciary is entitled to order deportations and it transpired that the Home Office was not following up on that. In Ireland, the Judiciary has no such power. It can make a recommendation——
—— which is an entirely different matter as the Deputy well knows. The Deputy asked for the number of non-EEA people who were prisoners at the relevant time. Some 662 people were convicted of offences of whom 150 have been deported, a further 127 have not been deported and are legally resident in the State, the situation of a further 108 is under consideration as to whether they will be deported, 25 evaded deportation when deportation was ordered against them and may not be in the State, and the other category to which I referred which relates to people who have no resident status and who may or may not be in the State and are probably not in the State amounts to 252.
Instead of attitudinising in a tabloid way on this matter he would be well advised to bear in mind that a non-EEA national mother of a family might have a conviction——
I will try to answer it if the Deputy will stop shouting. The non-EEA national mother of a family with a conviction would be eligible for deportation and would fit into the figures I have supplied. However, it would be plainly wrong to deport or even consider deporting a person in those circumstances if her husband and children were law-abiding people legally resident in the State. Instead of trying to do a tired secondhand derivative piece of political grandstanding based on the Charles Clarke episode, which is based on different law in Britain, the Deputy would do better to study the table set out for him in the reply, come clean with the people and say there is a very significant rate of deportation of people who have served sentences in our prisons.
It is the Tánaiste's job to come clean and answer questions. It is his job not to be evasive nor obfuscate in his replies. I revert to the question I tabled six months ago. How many of these people were considered by him in each of those years for deportation? In respect of how many were deportation orders made? The Tánaiste has not yet answered the question. The real question is why he has not answered it. It is clear from the documentation I have received that no effective process was put in place by the Tánaiste for consideration by him of these issues up to last year.
The Deputy should finally sit down and let me answer his question. I have given the Deputy the figures and as he well knows, 662 people would have been eligible for deportation under the relevant section, 150 were deported, 127 were not deported and are legally resident in the State and 108 are under consideration. Therefore, 258 out of 662 have been considered or are being considered for deportation under the relevant provision.
The Deputy's party's focus groups may find some evidence for the proposition that being hard on migration makes good politics. However, I must make reasonable decisions about real-life situations.