Tuesday, 13 November 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
127. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if asylum seekers here were given papers allowing them to travel to Britain for abortions; the number of cases in which such papers were issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27643/01]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): Under section 9(4)(f2>a) of the Refugee Act, 1996, asylum seekers are prohibited from leaving the State without consent. The Department's legal advice is that the 1951 Geneva Convention obliges it to give sympathetic consideration to requests from asylum applicants for a travel document to enable them to travel temporarily while pursuing their claims. If there are good grounds for believing that the person intends to abuse the travel document in order to evade immigration controls elsewhere, this could constitute a valid reason for refusal. According to the advice received, however, the fact that a per son intends to travel in order to obtain an abortion would not, in itself, be sufficient reason to refuse a request to travel. The advice is that to refuse an applicant a travel document under such circumstances would have the effect of impeding her normal freedom to travel.
Consequently there has been consent to a small number of requests of this nature. Statistics are not maintained on the number of travel documents issued according to purpose of travel but my understanding is that the number of women issued with a travel document under these circumstances in 2000 and to date in 2001 was two and eight, respectively.
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