News archive 2005

Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs recommends a rights based approach to State’s immigration policy

Press Release

15 September 2005

Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs

recommends a rights based approach to

State’s immigration policy

Immigration policy should provide for a statutory entitlement to family
reunification for Irish citizens and legal immigrants The Irish Commission
for Justice and Social Affairs (ICJSA), chaired by Bishop Raymond Field,
has recommended a rights based approach to the State’s immigration policy
in a submission to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform’s
Immigration and Residence Bill.

The ICJSA’s submission was guided by a number of basic values:

* The Dignity of the Human Person: As we are created in the image of
God, the dignity of the human person is a fundamental right of all humankind
which extends beyond geographic and other boundaries.
* A rights based approach: This approach is required to our immigration
policy to give centrality to the recognition and protection of human rights
and the dignity of the human person.
* Society and Economy: When developing this legislation, there is a
danger that economic considerations might be allowed to obscure other crucial
aspects of the common good. However, economic policies must be consistent
with the requirements of social justice and the protection of the human
dignity of all members of society.
* Responsibility for Overseas Development: Immigration and residence
policies should be integrated in our wider global responsibilities and should
link harmoniously with Ireland’s responsibility to overseas development.
* Integration: Immigration and residence legislation should not be
restricted to the question of admission and exclusion of immigrants, rather
all persons coming under the remit of this legislation ought to be accepted
as potential permanent members into society.
* Protection: There is a clear and urgent need for stringent legal
protection of migrant workers from the risk of exploitation in their working
conditions and their terms of employment. Legislation must contain the necessary
provisions to ensure that employees can assert and be granted their legal rights.
* Family reunification: Immigration and residence policy should provide
for a statutory entitlement to family reunification for Irish citizens and legal
immigrants.
* Children: immigration and residence policies should ensure the welfare
of children as a paramount consideration.
* Leadership Role: Ireland should take the lead in the EU and ratify the
UN Convention of the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and
Members of their families.

Specifically, the ICJSA supports the inclusion of the following rights in the
Bill for migrant workers:
– to receive the medical card;
– that migrant children have access to education;
– enjoy equality of treatment with nationals of the state regarding
education, housing and social and health services;
– can freely choose their remunerated activity in the State of employment,
subject to standard restrictions.

Commenting on the Immigration and Residence Bill Bishop Raymond Field said:
“Ireland, as never before, has the opportunity to take the moral lead in
Europe. The Christian community has a responsibility to create a welcoming
and supportive environment in which immigrants will be enabled to integrate,
not only in the Church, but also in the wider human family”

Ends
15 September 2005

Further information:
Communications Officer Brenda Drumm 087 233 7797

NOTES TO EDITORS:
* The full text of the ICJSA submission follows
* The ICJSA is a Commission of the Irish Bishops’ Conference.
* The ICJSA is chaired by Bishop Raymond Field and its role is to
support the Bishops’ Conference in promoting the social teaching of
the Church and advising on issues of social concern both nationally
and internationally.

Immigration and Residence in Ireland: Policy proposals for an
Immigration and Residence Bill.
Submission on behalf of the
Irish Commission for Justice & Social Affairs
(A Commission of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference)
July 2005

The Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs welcomes the opportunity
to make a submission on Immigration and Residence in Ireland as outlined
in the discussion document published by the Department of Justice, Equality
and Law Reform, April 2005.

Ireland, as never before, is enjoying a time of economic growth and prosperity.
Immigration and multiculturalism are elements that now form the fabric of
Irish society. We acknowledge the enormous contribution that people from
other countries have made and recognise how Ireland is enriched by them not
only economically but also socially, culturally and spiritually.

Core Values:
In making its response the Irish Commission for Justice & Social Affairs has
been guided by a number of basic values:

1. The Dignity of the Human Person.
Every person is created in the image of God. Therefore, “being in the image
of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not
just something, but someone.”[1] Furthermore, human beings are persons-in-relation,
not isolated, independent beings. The realisation of the ‘dignity of the person’
and of the fundamental unity of all humankind calls for solidarity which extends
beyond geographic and all other boundaries.

2. Human Rights.
The Irish Commission for Justice & Social Affairs strongly recommends a rights
based approach to this important social issue.

The Church has drawn attention to the positive value of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on 10th December 1948, which Pope
John Paul II defined as “a true milestone on the path of humanity’s moral
progress”[2] In fact, the roots of human rights are to be found in the dignity
that belongs to each human being.[3] Upholding human rights therefore, seeks
to interpret and defend the values rooted in the very nature of the human person.

We stress the need when developing an immigration policy to give centrality
to the recognition and protection of human rights and the dignity of the human
person.

Core Issues to be addressed:

1. Society and the Economy.
When developing an immigration and residence legislation, there is the danger
that economic considerations might be allowed to obscure other crucial aspects
of the common good. It is critical to ensure that, ultimately, the economy
serves the best interest of society, rather than that the reverse. Economic
policies must be consistent with the requirements of social justice and the
protection of the human dignity of all members of society.

2. Responsibility for Overseas Development.
Immigration and Residence policies should be integrated into our wider, global
responsibilities and should link harmoniously with Ireland’s responsibility
to overseas development. In this context we encourage the government to
remain faithful to the millennium goals set for development and we uphold
that there is not necessarily a dichotomy between the long-term perspective
of an integrated sound global economy and doing what is morally defensible.

3.Integration.
We consider that immigration and residence legislation should not be restricted
to the questions of admission and exclusion of immigrants. A much wider
perspective is required within which immigrants and their families, students
and all people who come under the remit of such legislation are accepted as
potentially permanent members and enabled to integrate into society.

4.Protection.
There is a clear and urgent need for stringent legal protection of migrant
workers from the real risk of exploitation in their working conditions and
their terms of employment. Specifically, there is a need to protect migrant
workers from the potentially negative effects of a work permit system tied
into residence entitlements. Legislation must contain the necessary provisions
to ensure that employees can assert and be granted their legal rights.

5.Family Reunification.
Immigration and Residence policy should provide for a statutory entitlement
to family reunification for Irish citizens and legal immigrants. In our
country which values the family and recognises its ‘inalienable and
imprescriptible rights’[4], family reunification policy and procedures
should be fair and just and in accordance with relevant EU Directives,
while taking account of diverse cultural and societal norms.

6. Children.
The children of migrant workers are in a particularly vulnerable position.
In the development of Immigration and Residence policies, in accordance
with our responsibilities under the Irish Constitution and the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is essential to ensure
that the welfare of children is one of the paramount considerations.

7.Leadership Role.
Ireland should take a lead in the European Union in ratifying the United
Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers
and Members of their Families.

Specifically, the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs supports
the inclusion of the following rights in the proposed Bill:

(i) That migrant workers and members of their family have the right to
receive medical care that is urgently required for the preservation of
their life or the avoidance of irreparable harm to their health on the
basis of equality of treatment with nationals of the state concerned.
(ii) That children of migrant workers are to have the basic right of
access to education on the basis of equality of treatment with nationals
of the State.

(iii) That migrant workers and members of their families who are documented
or in a regular situation in the State would enjoy equality of treatment
with nationals of the State in relation to access to educational institutions,
housing and social and health services, provided, in the latter case, that
the requirements for participation in the respective schemes are met. The
State would be obliged by the Convention to pursue a policy aimed at
facilitating the integration of children of migrant workers in the local
school system.

(iv) That migrant workers have the right freely to choose their remunerated
activity in the State of employment, though the State would be entitled to
restrict access to limited categories of employment where this is necessary
in the interests of the State.

The Convention contains many other detailed provisions. It is an important
international instrument of human rights protection and Ireland should take
the lead in the European Union by ratifying it. By doing so, it will
demonstrate a seriousness of purpose in relation to the protection of Migrant
Workers and All Members of their Families will provide a focus for future
discussion of how best to develop our immigration and residence policy in the
future.

Conclusion.
Reflecting on the content of this document we are confronted with the real
human dimension which underlies our legislation and decision-making. Ireland,
as never before, has the opportunity to take a moral lead in Europe. As a
nation that aspires to ‘cherish all her children equally’ we encourage such
moral leadership by the Government at both international and national level.

We acknowledge the responsibility of the Christian community to create a welcoming
and supportive environment in which immigrants will be enabled to integrate not
only in the Church but also in the wider human family. Ireland has the potential
to be a microcosm of how the world could be if ‘the other’ were to be treated as
an equal, not by merit of their economic contribution but rather as a person
with intrinsic human rights.

We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this discussion and we
commend the efforts of the Government to ensure that immigrants and their
families find their just and rightful place in a welcoming Ireland, to the
enrichment and edification of the whole of Irish society.

[1] The Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church: 62, Article 108.
[2] John Paul II, Address to the 34th General Assembly of the United Nations
(2 October 1979). Compendium: 84, Article 303.
[3] Gaudium et Spes, 27: Compendium: 85, Article 153.
[4] The Constitution of Ireland. Article 41.1°.1.

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