Thursday, 20 October 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
3. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if representatives from his Department or associated agencies have travelled to Nigeria to monitor the implementation of the re-admission agreement entered into with the Nigerian Government in August 2001 (details supplied) under which the Government has committed itself to safeguarding the human rights and dignity of those being returned when repatriation has taken place; the details of such visits to Nigeria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29933/05]
Mr. McDowell: A bilateral agreement on immigration matters, including re-admission, was concluded in 2001 between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The agreement has not yet been officially ratified by the Nigerian side so there is not, as yet, in existence a co-ordinating committee as provided for in Article XIX of the agreement. Notwithstanding its non-ratification, both sides are operating in the spirit of the agreement, particularly in the area of repatriation.
A senior official from my Department and two senior officers from the Garda national immigration bureau travelled to Nigeria in April of this year to meet with a number of Government and non-government organisations involved in the area of immigration and returns, accompanied by Ireland’s ambassador to Nigeria and a consular official.
Specifically, the delegation met with Government officials from various elements of the Nigerian immigration service and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons. The delegation also met with the Nigerian office of the International Organisation for Migration, which manages assisted voluntary returns programmes there. Further meetings took place with representatives from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and with visa officers and airline liaison officers representing a number of EU member states. There were useful exchanges between all parties. One of the outcomes of this visit is that arrangements are in train for a month long visit to Ireland later this year by officials from the Nigerian immigration service to study our system.
The human rights guaranteed by Article XX of the agreement are given effect to by section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, which I am obliged to consider when returning a person to Nigeria, or any other third country, before making a deportation order. This provides that a person shall not be expelled from the State or returned in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where, in the opinion of the Minister, the life or freedom of that person would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Extensive country of origin information, including reports prepared by the UNHCR and similar independent bodies, are always consulted in making an evaluation.
Mr. Cuffe: I am shocked to hear that the Nigerian Government has not ratified this agreement yet the Minister is continuing to send people to that country to meet their fate under a regime which has been characterised by a lack of human rights and the use of torture. The Minister has failed to convince me that the terms and conditions of the readmission agreement with Nigeria are being honoured.
Mr. Cuffe: Could I remind the Minister that under the re-admission agreement, Ireland has committed itself to safeguarding the human rights and dignity of those who have been returned during the deportation process and when repatriation has taken place? However, what appears to be occurring——
Mr. Cuffe: Is the Minister aware that when people are returned to Nigeria, the gardaí and Irish officials leave within 24 hours? This is not good enough. The Minister is not honouring his side of the agreement to make sure the human rights of those who have been repatriated are honoured. Those human rights must be respected.
To deport individuals from Ireland to volatile countries headed by corrupt governments or regimes, where hunger and violence are a part of everyday life, is deplorable. In particular, I bring the Minister’s attention to the plight of the “aged out” minors who are currently living under the threat of deportation. The Minister has received correspondence from myself and my constituency colleagues in that regard. These are young men and women who came to Ireland as children. They are particularly vulnerable if sent back. Is the Minister aware of the impact of deportation and repatriation on these young people? As an example, I will give the story of Portia.
Mr. McDowell: The Deputies cannot have it every way. There has been a significant flow of people from Nigeria to Ireland, where they claim asylum, with a very high rejection rate. The predominant motivation of the great majority of people who come to Ireland and claim asylum has been economic — let us be honest about it. If this country, which has had an inordinately high flow of asylum seekers from Nigeria in proportion to its population, were to do what Deputy Cuffe suggests, the situation would spiral out of control. I have reduced it dramatically by the steps I have taken. I thank God I am in the position of Minister because if the Deputy and other members of the rainbow coalition were making similar decisions, we would have chaos.
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