Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Deportation Moratorium (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Second Stage
I thank the Minister for coming to the House and I congratulate her on her good news. I commend the Civil Engagement Group for tabling this Private Members' legislation. It is probably one of the first times we have had the start of a meaningful debate on immigration in this House and we must have many more debates like it. I refer to immigration and its impact on us as an island and a member of the European Union.
Most of us are familiar with the asylum process and the subsidiary protection process. We all also know that deportation orders are issued as a last resort, after leave to remain is refused. As the Minister pointed out, leave to remain continues, even when a deportation order is hanging over someone's head. Many of us, however, have people ringing us when a deportation order is served on then, and they are often in major distress. A gentleman rang me to say he had been served with a deportation order. On the basis of being served with the order, he was not returning to the place where he was living. He was not going to return to the reception centre because he had witnessed scenes which may not have stemmed from the issuing of a deportation order. I refer to members of An Garda Síochána being present to deport someone. The man who spoke to me, with his lack of English, thought that receiving a deportation order was going to result in him being immediately deported.
I am glad, therefore, to have heard the Minister intimate that she might change the language of the form so that it is clearer for people and that the recommendation from Catherine Day would be taken on board to extend the process for voluntary leave from five to 30 days. We may need to consider how deportation orders are couched and the language used in such orders, and put more supports in place for people issued with a deportation order. I state that because many people when served with such an order go off the radar. I do not like to use this term, but if they are caught up with, that goes against them. It is unfair and people are only acting in that way because they are scared.
I commend the Minister. All last term, I was jumping up and down here regarding the failure of the Burgh Quay offices of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS. On several occasions, I mentioned that bots were used to block-buy appointments on the Internet and those appointments were then resold to vulnerable immigrants. I am glad, therefore, that the Department is going to put major investment into the online services in Burgh Quay. Anecdotally, we are already hearing that there have been large reductions in applications for visas, stamp 5 certifications and citizenship. People no longer have to queue for days outside Burgh Quay because of what I thought was some sort of administrative racism. I refer to people being on the streets queuing when their visas were up. It was very unfair and we would not have treated our citizens like that, so I am really glad that we are getting ahead of ourselves regarding the upgrading and extensions of the Burgh Quay offices.
I presume that for all of us here, it is great to hear that the Minister is putting a programme in place to legalise 17,000 migrants. The Minister must be commended on this radical step. Websites on the right, such as Gript.ie, have been appalled by this move, but it is very much the right thing to do. As Senator McDowell said, if we talk about undocumented Irish migrants in the United States, we must put our money where our mouth is and follow suit in dealing with this issue. I was delighted, therefore, when I saw that this action was going to be taken.
I also agree with my colleagues regarding the vaccination programmes. Portugal has granted immigrants full citizenship rights during the pandemic, which allowed them access to healthcare and other rights to which citizens are entitled. I do not know if this is something the Minister's Department has considered, but I would know if it has been. I thank the Minister. I will not be supporting this Bill. I will be supporting our amendment instead, but I thank the Civil Engagement Group for bringing the legislation before the House.