Wednesday, 8 May 1991
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. McCartan: I thank you for permission to raise this case and I thank the Minister of State for coming here to listen to my plea. On 17 March 1983 a Palestinian refugee was arrested by the Jordanian security police and charged with offences alleging membership of an outlawed political party, namely the Islamic Liberation Party. He faced a possible ten years in prison. He was released on terms before trial and fled to this country. He has remained here ever since his arrival on 3 March 1984. His status as a Palestinian refugee was registered with the United Nations at Amman in Jordan on 18 November 1967. His passport from that country has not been renewed and he is without means of travel abroad. He is, in fact, stateless.
Over the past seven years while in Ireland he has been without work or support by the Department of Social Welfare. He has been unable to obtain a work visa because his status within the country has not been settled. He is being maintained in very poor circumstances by his family who periodically, send him money for support.
On his arrival here he applied for residency, citizenship, political asylum or whatever the Department would be prepared to facilitate him with. Needless to say, he was unfamiliar with the rules, regulations and laws of this country and sought what guidance was available to him from the Department and other agencies.
The party of which he was a member in Jordan was basically a populist antiroyalist party and because it was antiroyalist it was not tolerated in Jordan. In his application for political asylum he has been supported by the Irish Red Cross Society and has had his case investigated by the United Nations High Commission in London. I understand they have reported to the Department that his case  is sustainable and that he should be supported in his application for consideration here.
Throughout this time he has continued to report as required to the aliens section of the Department of Justice. All his inquiries to date have led to a blank wall at the Department and he remains in effect stranded, stateless and without the opportunity to work or to seek it. His position has become more hapless, if that is possible, because recently he has been advised that his elderly father is seriously ill. He needs to travel to see him at home before he passes on but he cannot leave here because if he does he faces the risk of persecution if he returns to Jordan without Irish citizenship and the support and protection of the Irish State. Equally if he travels without documents and without assurances he has no prospect of returning.
Aliens here are never very high on any political agenda or manifesto. Our own illegals abroad have received huge Government attention and this is as it should be. We need to give attention to those unfortunates who come to Ireland of the welcomes as a resort. The Department must become more open and deal more compassionately with the needs of aliens who come here out of desperation. In particular, the position of this man must be addressed without further delay. It is inexcusable and unforgiveable that a person who makes a reasonable, sustained and supportable request must wait seven years for a reply from a Department.
All this I put to the new Minister of State at the Department of Justice in correspondence on 18 February last. I understand my correspondence and his representations have failed to resolve the difficulty and it is in those circumstances that I have come to the House to raise this case. I hope that doing so will lead to some respite being offered, some hope being tendered and some favour being given to this unfortunate gentleman who does not have a home to return to and who now wants to take out Irish citizenship and to take up residency here. He has spent seven long and lonely years  here and he is happy with residency. He needs a favourable response from the Minister.
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Mr. N. Treacy): I am glad of the opportunity to respond to what has been said by the Deputy and to put on record the facts of this matter. This young man applied for and was granted a visa for entry to Ireland in March 1984. He was given permission to pursue a course of studies here until September 1985.
Our Department next heard from him in December 1987, when he applied for Irish citizenship. In his letter applying for citizenship, he did not claim to be a refugee but stated that he wanted to become an Irish citizen because he was a Palestinian refugee, registered with the appropriate United Nations authority; he had been in Ireland for more than three years; according to a doctor's report, an infection in his leg, which he had suffered as a result of a road traffic accident in May 1983, could recur and he would prefer to be treated in Ireland; and because of what he described as the hidden discrimination he faced, in the country, whose passport he carried, he would prefer to settle in Ireland. He did say in the letter that he had been jailed for one month in 1983 for what he described as his political opinions, but did not advance that fact as a reason for seeking citizenship.
In October 1988 he approached the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, through the Irish Red Cross, about refugee status. The UNHCR replied that, on the basis of the information supplied he had not, in the opinion of UNHCR, established a claim for refugee status. In April 1989 he submitted a claim for refugee status to my Department. His claim was referred to UNHCR which in response raised futher queries about the grounds on which refugee status had been claimed. Further  information was obtained from the applicant and forwarded to both UNHCR and the Department of Foreign Affairs, both of whom have given their views on the matter. Unfortunately, it is still not possible to reach a decision on the application due to a number of inconsistencies in the information supplied by the applicant which are evident and which will have to be resolved before a decision can be made. I do not propose to say anything further on the matter nor to confirm any further information from where this person has come or the State in which this person alleges he would be persecuted.
The delays which have occurred are, of course, a matter of regret but have been caused by the necessity to ensure that before a decision is made all of the information has been verified in so far as possible.
Mr. N. Treacy: If Deputy McCartan is prepared to make available to me the submission he has put before the House I will report to the officials in the aliens section regarding this matter. I will have a further meeting with them. A number of glaring inconsistencies must be reconciled if that cannot be done, I will be prepared to arrange a meeting with Deputy McCartan and the gentleman, with the permission of the Minister for Justice.
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