Dáil debates

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Priority Questions

Asylum Applications.

1:00 pm

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Question 43: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of asylum applicants who have gone missing from State provided asylum accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27601/07]

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The question appears to imply that asylum seekers are not free to leave state accommodation centres. That is not so. Asylum seekers are not prisoners. They are free to leave such centres, or opt not to avail of the facilities that lie therein from their day of arrival in the state.

However, there is an obligation on asylum seekers to keep the relevant authorities, namely, the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Office of the Refugee Appeal Tribunal, informed of their current address.

In relation to under aged minors, their accommodation is not the responsibility of my Department, but of the Health Service Executive. Any question which the Deputy may wish to raise on this matter should be put to the Minister for Health and Children.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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The Minister will play with words. The fact is that 328 children have gone missing from asylum accommodation provided for children. How many people are there within the asylum process who are unaccounted for? Is it not the case that 5,630 people, based on the Minister's figures, are evading deportation orders and what steps are being taken to ensure those deportation orders are being imposed?

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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In regard to deportation orders, the Garda National Immigration Bureau enforces these orders and has carriage of this matter and seeks to apprehend these individuals. Flights out of the State are arranged at regular intervals. Persons are apprehended for the purposes of deportation and they are deported. That is how deportation arrangements take place. The Deputy will appreciate that in a free society, such as ours, the resources available to the Department for the enforcement of deportation orders are not limitless. We do not have a compulsory system of registration, for example, of our identification. We do not have the kind of intrusive powers available to the Garda Síochána that would permit it in all cases to instantaneously enforce a deportation order. Likewise our powers of detention in this area are not as extensive as those in other jurisdictions. That said, the Garda National Immigration Bureau is a dedicated part of the force that monitors this issue, monitors trends and movements and keeps a close eye on those who are a threat to our security, public order or who may commit offences. It certainly maintains close surveillance on all these matters and arranges for deportations from time totime.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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It is not the case that right throughout Europe the asylum process is being used as a mechanism to facilitate human trafficking? We had an example of that a couple of weeks ago. The Minister is unable to give me any figures for the number of people who are unaccounted for within the asylum process. Is it not the case that there is the possibility that some of these people are being trafficked in to the sex industry? Is it not the case that the Minister has not got a clue what is going on in this area, that there is no way of tracing these people, and whether in regard to deportation orders or people who are unaccounted for within the asylum accommodation system, we do not know what is going on? There are no records, no traceability and the whole thing is a sham.

3:00 pm

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I do not accept the whole thing is a sham or that we do not know. We are part of a common travel area with Great Britain and because of that there is a substantial amount of movement between both jurisdictions on which we are doing much study at present. It is clear that quite a number of the unaccounted for asylum seekers are in other jurisdictions.

The Deputy is aware that trafficking legislation is now before the House and that Operation Pentameter, which is an intelligence-driven operation to detect the incidence of trafficking throughout these islands, is now under way with the Garda Síochána working closely with the numerous police forces that exist in Great Britain and Northern Ireland to tackle this phenomenon. Regarding asylum claims being used as a cover for trafficking, a number of different routes are used to try to evade our border control legislation. It would not be fair for me, as Minister, to single out the asylum applicant in isolation in that context. There is evidence that persons who have an expired visa and presence in the United Kingdom transfer to this jurisdiction and claim asylum.

If a person being trafficked is from outside the European Union frontiers a variety of devices can be resorted to, whether by seeking a holiday or student visa or by making an asylum claim, that can lead to the person being brought into the jurisdiction. The circumstances are legion in a world of globalisation with a great deal of international movement of persons. However, the Garda is keeping a vigilant eye on the phenomenon and threat of trafficking in this jurisdiction.