ANN CAHILL: Ireland opts out of EU migrant policy

THE Government is expected to opt out of a whole raft of immigration policy designed to encourage legal migration into Europe while strengthening borders against illegals.

They will also not take part in plans for a common policy on returning illegal immigrants.

The returns directive, to be voted on by the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, has been criticised for allowing people to be held for up to 18 months before being deported.

Irish draft legislation covering the same area, allows people who are to be deported to be held for up to eight weeks.

Currently, Britain, which has also opted out, and six other countries, allow people to be held indefinitely. Human rights, refugee groups and the UN have been critical of the fact that people who have not been charged with a crime can be held in this way.

Robin Hannon of the Irish Refugee Council said they were very unhappy with the situation and a policy that sees people being deported to countries in a way that puts them in danger.

“The initial proposals allowed for the rights of people to be protected, but the member states have severely restricted these rights,” he said.

The proposals announced yesterday are designed to attract immigrants into the EU, where within 20 years the union will be short about 20 million workers because of its ageing population. About two million immigrants come into the EU each year, but Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot said there must be arrangements to ensure they are properly integrated.

They would complement a blue card system designed to attract highly skilled workers, a policy Ireland has also opted out of.

The Refugee Council says that in principle it favours a common asylum policy provided the standards meet those of the UN.

However, a source said Ireland is likely to use its opt-out for most the new proposals. “Much of the proposals are covered by the draft Immigration Bill and it’s unlikely that Ireland will be involved in much of the EU legislation, especially dealing with immigration.”


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