FLAC reaction to Immigration Residence and Protection Bill 2008
29 January 2008
In its first reaction to the Immigration Residence & Protection Bill which was published today, FLAC, the non-governmental organisation campaigning for equal access to justice, has raised concerns about the protection of the rights of immigrants to access fair and transparent procedures.
"While the Minister quite naturally wants to set up a fast, efficient immigration system, our concern is that a fair balance must be maintained between efficiency and rights" according to FLAC's director general Noeline Blackwell.
Ms. Blackwell said that FLAC is particularly concerned that unlike the asylum system, the proposed immigration system does not include any independent appeals procedure. "An independent appeal is one of the safeguards needed in any administrative procedure which takes place within a single department, without any oversight or scrutiny from any other source" according to her. "There is no provision for an immigration appeals authority at all" she said.
A further concern for the organisation is the increased restrictions placed on access to the courts. According to Ms. Blackwell, existing legislation requires immigrants and those seeking protection to meet a higher standard than is needed for most other cases which come before the courts. This Bill introduces further restrictions on the right of access to the court, and can also penalise an applicant by awarding costs against the lawyer. "An explanatory memorandum to the Bill states that this could happen, as an example, where a judge considers that a case is 'frivolous'. However, a lawyer cannot predict what a judge will think of a case. The danger is that lawyers will be discouraged by the sheer weight of obstacles that impede access to the courts for immigrants."
Noeline Blackwell is available for comment at: 01-874 5690.
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres Ltd.)
13 Lr Dorset Street, Dublin 1
Tel: 01-874 5690
Fax: 01-874 5320