Kevin O'Higgins Solicitors

Reform of immigration policy needs to ‘prioritise’ vulnerable groups

Monday, 13 January, 2014
The Irish Times

Victims of domestic violence and human trafficking must be priorities for future immigration reforms, the Immigrant Council of Ireland has said. The council said the Government had made progress on immigration reform in 2013 but urged it to put particular focus on vulnerable groups as it prepares to publish the long-awaited Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.

“The failure to provide residency entitlements to victims of domestic violence in immigration law is leaving people trapped in violent relationships because of fears they could be deported,” said the council’s chief executive Denise Charlton. She said Ireland had been criticised internationally over the past year for failing to provide proper, safe and secure accommodation for victims of human trafficking, while stateless persons were “too often left living in limbo”.

The council was commenting on the publication of provisional figures on asylum and immigration for 2013 by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. The figures showed that fewer than 950 people sought asylum in the State last year, continuing the downward trend of recent years, and that progress is being made in clearing the backlog of citizenship applications. Last year, 30,000 applications were decided on, compared with 25,000 in 2012 and 16,000 in 2011.

The provisional data also shows that about 95,000 entry visa applications were received last year, an increase of 8 per cent on 2012, with an approval rate of 91 per cent. The top five nationalities among applicants were India (16 per cent), Russia (15 per cent), China (11 per cent), Nigeria (6 per cent) and Turkey (5 per cent).

Hilkka Becker, senior solicitor at the Immigrant Council, said the move towards mutual recognition for short-term visas between Ireland and the UK would be a positive step in bringing clarity to a situation that had caused confusion for migrants travelling between the Republic and the North. Ms Becker said the fact that 1,890 people were refused entry at the border was of “continuing concern” two years after the High Court highlighted that the failure to provide visa facilities at points of entry breached EU law.

Mr Shatter has said work on a new Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill – a revised version of a draft law first published by then minister for justice Brian Lenihan in 2008 – was at an “advanced stage” and he expected it to be enacted this year.