Report issues ‘clarion call’ for immigration detention to be brought in line with human rights

Fiona Finn
Fiona Finn

Rights groups have issued a “clarion call” for the Irish Government to bring Ireland’s immigration-related detention practices in line with the State’s international human rights obligations.

A new report launched today by Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, explores the current situation from a legal and evidence-based perspective.

It takes as a starting point international human rights lawyer Mark Kelly’s seminal research on the area of immigration-related detention in Ireland, which was first published in 2005.

Mr Kelly 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 leave to land at Dublin Airport, at the launch of the new report.

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 numbers of people detained for immigration related reasons is relatively low in Ireland, and is in fact decreasing, the numbers of people 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.

Ms Finn continued: “We need to ensure that people who are being refused leave to land are being given every opportunity to access the asylum process if that is what they require, and that Ireland is not at risk of violating its international obligations of non-refoulement in returning people to their place of origin.

“We also need to ensure that those who are being detained are not having their human rights infringed, particularly at ports of entry and in Garda stations, where our research showed that detainees were often left in situations without access to their mobile phones, access to a solicitor or information about the asylum process, access to medical treatment, or access to interpreter services to understand fully what was happening to them.”

Mr Kelly said: “This report makes a much-needed contribution to our current knowledge about immigration-related detention in Ireland, once again highlighting significant gaps between principles and practice.

“It should be read as a clarion call to civil society organisations, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and agencies of the state to take concerted action to ensure that Ireland’s immigration-related detention practices will finally meet its international human rights obligations.”

Ms Malone added: “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.”