Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Deportation Moratorium (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Second Stage
I welcome the Minister to the House and I also congratulate her on her wonderful news. I am very proud today to co-sign this legislation with my colleagues from the Civil Engagement Group. This Bill provides proportionate protection to the 469 people who have received deportation letters in the midst of this Covid-19 crisis. This legislation accurately recognises the threat of Covid-19 to the most vulnerable members of society, which undoubtedly include those 469 people who are subject to deportation.In the current climate, it is accurate to state that the forcible removal of persons residing in the State to foreign jurisdictions has the potential to be detrimental to global public health. There are compelling public interest reasons to discourage the unnecessary movement of people to outside the State insofar as possible in order to reduce the spread of this virus. In unprecedented times, we must embrace emergency change. We have no choice about it. There is no doubt that it is an emergency period. This is terrain we have never before crossed and it does require an emergency response.
The amendments to the Acts mentioned in the Bill are absolutely necessary to attune to the current global state of health. The amendment to section 51 of the International Protection Act 2015 through the insertion of section 51A as proposed in the Bill is a reasonable response to the emergency. It proposes an extension to the current requirements such that the Minister shall not make a deportation order under section 50, which deals with the prohibition of refoulement. The amendment is essential as it recognises the severe risk Covid-19 poses to the life and freedom of persons subject to deportation, making it reasonable grounds for prohibition of refoulement.
Aside from all of that, there is a need for these legislative amendments on a more human level which all speakers have addressed. I too have received many letters on the matter, particularly given my work as a therapist. One tends to get phone calls from people who are in unbelievably stressful situations. They have made lives here for themselves and are absolutely terrified of being separated from their family. That fear which keeps them from sleeping at night is just beyond anything anyone in this Chamber could ever comprehend. I shudder to think of that experience in the face of the global pandemic in addition to the obvious risk inherent in the movement of people to outside the State.
The Bill follows a necessary route of compassion and understanding and would mean that nobody should have to experience deportation at a time when travel seems so deeply unsafe and threatening. We must have regard for the constitutional duty of the State to respect, defend and vindicate the rights of persons to life and bodily integrity. That said, I believe the Bill is a proportionate response to extraordinary times and will act to prevent, minimise or reduce the risks of persons being infected with Covid-19.