Senator leads calls for regulation of immigration consultants

Senator leads calls for regulation of immigration consultants

Sharon Keogan

Immigration consultants should be regulated along the same lines as solicitors and barristers, an independent senator has said.

Speaking in the Seanad this week, Senator Sharon Keogan said UK press reports had highlighted how “migrants across the UK are being preyed upon by immigration advisers and solicitors” and that legislators in Ireland “would be fools to think that this is not happening here”.

She said: “The business of immigration consulting has exploded in recent years and is only going to get bigger, yet there is no legal framework, basis or oversight for accreditation of immigration consultants.

“I could leave this room, call myself an immigration consultant, charge people to see me and tell them God knows what. At the moment, any Joe Soap can simply slap a label of immigration consultant on himself and start to advise people on making what is a huge life change.

“That lack of oversight or accountability with regard to legal advice is very worrying and leaves open many doors that unscrupulous individuals may use to exploit vulnerable persons.”

She added: “There are no regulations and no criteria under which persons can identify as an immigration consultant, and therein lies the problem.”

James Browne, minister of state in the Department of Justice, said in response that legal services “are heavily regulated” in the State.

He said the term immigration consultant “encompasses a very broad spectrum of people, from family members or friends giving legal advice, to some who are offering services” and individuals had a right to go to third parties for guidance or assistance.

“The Department of Justice immigration service will generally only engage with individuals or groups such as solicitors, NGOs or other bodies whose bona fides have been established,” he added.

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