Friday 21 October 2016

New laws will allow clampdown on migrants living here illegally

Niall O'Connor and Jane O'Faherty

Published 20/11/2015 | 02:30

President Michael D Higgins receives a medal from Bar Council chairman David Barniville SC, after speaking at the Daniel O’Connell Memorial Lecture at the Law Library
President Michael D Higgins receives a medal from Bar Council chairman David Barniville SC, after speaking at the Daniel O’Connell Memorial Lecture at the Law Library
Michael D Higgins

The government is clamping down on migrants found to be living in the country illegally.

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Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has published new laws which are aimed at making it easier and faster to identify individuals who do not have proper refugee status.

The International Protection Bill will also simplify the system of applying for refugee status in Ireland through the creation of a single application process.

Ms Fitzgerald has said the current system is "multi-layered" and "sequential", adding that the new reforms are necessary. "The Bill now provides us with the legislative means to reform the current multi-layered and sequential system," the minister said.

"The introduction of the single procedure, together with other reforms in the proposed International Protection Bill, will allow us to efficiently grant international protection to those who are entitled to it.

"At the same time, it will identify, at a much earlier stage, persons who have no entitlement to stay in the State and who can safely return to their country of origin."

Meanwhile, President Michael D Higgins has called the European refugee crisis "a great human rights challenge".

Speaking at the annual Daniel O'Connell Memorial Lecture in Dublin, the President said human rights remained an urgent requirement of law and democracy.

"The contemporary issue of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe is both a great human rights challenge and also a great test of political leadership," he said.

"We are living through the greatest level of human displacement since World War II, with 60 million people forced from their homes by war."

"We see the results of this with the ongoing tumultuous displacement of people across the Middle East and beyond and the tragic loss of life witnessed in the Mediterranean Sea," he added.

Mr Higgins told those gathered at the Law Library that Ireland's leadership role in defending human rights "remains strong".

But he stressed that achieving human rights does not end with legislation, adding that Daniel O'Connell led popular political change that went on to guarantee a change of laws.

"He embraced the most difficult and politically inconvenient issues of his time from a perspective of first principles; even when to do so was seen as risking his own immediate political objectives," he said.

Referring to the recent attacks on Paris and Beirut, Mr Higgins said the European response to such acts of terrorism must be framed within the context of the Convention on Human Rights. "The Convention and its values are not something to be sacrificed at times of conflict or when confronted by extremism - these are the very values that we must defend and assert at such times," he said.

The annual lecture on human rights has previously been delivered by former President Mary McAleese, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman of the Supreme Court, and prominent American lawyer Pierce O'Donnell.

In his final remarks, the President said the future of human rights in Europe was "full of promise" and added that "exciting" legal developments in the coming years could benefit human rights.

Irish Independent

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