Ireland is in breach of its international human rights obligations by continuing to detain immigrants in prison and garda stations who have been refused entry to the country, a new report shows.
Around 28,000 people were refused entry between 2008 and 2016, according to Nasc’s (Irish Immigrant Support Centre) Immigration Detention and Border Control in Ireland report which was launched in Cork yesterday.
The report identifies failings by Irish authorities in refusing proper access to lawyers, asylum procedures, interpreters, or medical treatment.
The human rights group has called on the Government to bring immigration detention procedures into line with Ireland’s international obligations and, in particular, to ensure that people neither suspected nor convicted of a criminal offence are not kept in prison.
According to Nasc, little has changed since 2005 when human rights lawyer Mark Kelly conducted extensive research on the area and produced a damning report on Irish detention procedures.
Nasc CEO Fiona Finn said: “Overall, we found that not much had changed in the context of immigration-related detention since 2005.
However, while the number of people detained for immigration-related reasons is relatively low in Ireland — and is, in fact, decreasing — the numbers refused leave to land and subsequently detained is on the rise.
“This is particularly worrying given the global humanitarian crisis and the record number of displaced people around the globe.”
That view was echoed by Mr Kelly who joined Deirdre Malone, executive director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), and Karin Wieland, whose former au pair, Paloma Aparezida Silva-Carvalho, was detained after being refused entry at Dublin Airport.
Karen Wieland's speech really bringing home the reality of the impact of #immigrationdetention "The Paloma we brought home [from #immigrantdetention] was very different to the Paloma who had entered the country." Unable to speak, traumatised by her experience in prison. pic.twitter.com/HgSdJgP6KU— Nasc Ireland (@NascIreland) March 13, 2018
She was then sent to the Dóchas women’s prison in Mountjoy Jail. A new dedicated detention facility is to open this summer at Dublin Airport.
In a foreword to the report, Mr Kelly also highlighted positive aspects of Irish immigration policy.
“In certain other respects, Ireland has a record on immigration-related detention of which it can be reasonably proud,” he said.
“Some European states have made closed, carceral centres the cornerstone of their [anti-] immigration policies, in at least one instance going so far as to make detention the only entry point to their asylum system.
“That has never been the case in Ireland, where deprivation of liberty for immigration-related reasons has been the exception, rather than the rule.
“Indeed, one of the positive findings of this report, as compared to my 2005 research, is that the annual number of persons held in Irish prisons for immigration-related reasons has halved and that they are generally kept for only a few days, compared to the much more extended stays that I had found.”
Ms Malone said: “Ireland signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture [OPCAT] in 2007, but over a decade later have yet to ratify it.
"OPCAT introduces a comprehensive system of national and international monitoring of places of detention with a view to preventing all forms of ill-treatment.
“Given the State’s commitment to build a specific immigration detention facility in Dublin Airport, and given the findings in this report, it is ever more urgent that Ireland immediately ratify the OPCAT, to assist the State in preventing ill-treatment in places of detention.”
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