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 Header Item Commencement of Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item Immigration Policy

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins] I want to put it on the record of the Dáil because this issue is urgent and needs to be moved along. This parent says that she and her wife have been together since 2003. They married in 2009 under UK legislation. They both made the decision to have their first child in 2013. They both attended appointments. She was there when their daughter was born and through the sleepless nights and first steps. However, per the State, only her wife is a parent. In 2015, she was pregnant during the marriage equality referendum and endured all of the horrible comments about LGBTQ families but she was hopeful that the Children and Families Relationship (Amendment) Act would be progressed. For all that it seemed to be rushed through, in September when her son was born, there was still no movement on the commencement of the Act and once again she and her wife had to deal with the inconvenience, expense and annoyance of swearing an affidavit that he had only one parent to get a birth certificate or passport.

She says that problems arise when they have to travel to England. They are going over to England to see her grandparents. There is a lot of hassle. All of these families have the same experience. I understand that commencing this Act is complex and involves amending legislation but it could be moved along much more quickly with the parts put in place. Even if a date could be set, we could tell people that this is going to happen by this date or as close as possible to it. People feel a bit lost in the legislative process.

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen I will give a brief supplementary reply. As the Deputy has rightly pointed out, there are stories of parents in similar situations and this needs to be dealt with. This is complex and there are technical issues involved. It is important to get this right to ensure that there are no problems afterwards, that it is good legislation, and that the technical difficulties, including both parents being recognised not only when they are a father and mother, are dealt with. These are harrowing stories. We know that other couples all over the country have similar stories. By raising this issue in the Chamber this afternoon, the Deputy has highlighted the issue again and has put it on the record of the Dáil. Through my work as Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, I will certainly ensure that the officials from the General Register Office, GRO, my Department, and the Department of Health will ensure that the appropriate legislative, regulatory and operational mechanisms are put into place as quickly as possible. We are at the end of the year now, but I hope this will be done in 2019. I cannot give the Deputy a date but I can emphasise the urgency of the issue raised by her both to Ministers and the GRO. I know where she is coming from.

Immigration Policy

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Ar an gcéad dul síos, I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing us to raise this issue here this evening. It is my hope that we can discuss this issue without accusations regarding motivation coming into the debate. My colleague, Deputy Fitzmaurice, and I have raised this issue because there is anxiety about the implications for Ireland of becoming a signatory, as I understand we have done, to the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, which was adopted this week at the UN intergovernmental conference which took place in Morocco. In response to a recent parliamentary question, I was told that the compact is "non-binding and respectful of national sovereignty". I was also told that this is happening "against a background where individual States cannot address challenges relating to migration alone. For example, cross-border efforts are essential if human smuggling and trafficking is to be reduced."

However, on foot of a parliamentary question I tabled to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, last July, we know that there has not been a single conviction for human trafficking under the provisions of our own Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, despite the fact that there were two prosecutions under the relevant section of the Act in 2016 and four prosecutions in 2017. If we cannot get our own house in order with respect to trafficking and people smuggling, what hope do we have of addressing the world's people trafficking problems? As I said, there are great concerns about this. I am raising this issue in a non-adversarial way because we are concerned. Since 2012, a total of 101 prosecutions have been issued under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008. The vast majority of these prosecutions relate to offences under the section of the Act covering child trafficking and pornography, which we also have to cover. While on the one hand it is very encouraging, I cannot fail to be concerned about the fact that only 48 convictions have emerged from the process since 2012.

Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice: Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this Topical Issue matter. Public representatives across the country have been inundated with emails and phone calls from people who are concerned about the compact. There was a ferocious debate between two candidates for the leadership of Angela Merkel's party in Germany. There is concern in other countries. Some of the stuff out there may not be accurate. I do not know. I would have thought, however, that there would have been statements or a debate in the Dáil on such an issue before the Government would sign this compact with other countries. Perhaps I am wrong on the procedure but I would have expected a debate in the Dáil. I would like to hear the Minister of State's thoughts on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality who unfortunately cannot be here. He sends his apologies. I sincerely thank the Deputies for raising this important topical matter. I am happy to provide some background and context to the global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration.

  As has been said, the Minister has just returned from the intergovernmental signing conference for the compact in Marrakesh, where more than 140 UN member states were represented, most by senior ministers or Heads of State. This debate is an opportunity to clear up some misconceptions about the compact being pushed by some politicians - though thankfully none here - for obvious political ends and, in particular, by users of social media. Ireland has been closely involved in the development of the global compact on migration and, alongside Jordan, Ireland co-facilitated the 2016 New York declaration on refugees and migrants, a direct precursor to the compact.

  It is clear that mass migration across the world cannot be managed by one country alone. Migration is a global issue, which requires global co-operation. The global compact on migration, agreed this week by a significant majority of UN member states in Marrakesh, is a legally non-binding document that looks at migration from a global perspective. While non-binding, it provides a framework for co-operation between states. The compact is grounded in values of state sovereignty, responsibility sharing, non-discrimination and human rights, and recognises that a co-operative approach is needed to optimise the overall benefits of migration, while addressing its risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination. The global compact places state sovereignty at its heart, meaning that it respects the rights of all countries to control their borders and retain control of their migration policy.

  Despite the narrative being put forward by opponents of the compact in recent days, agreeing it will not negatively influence Ireland or our migration policy. I will clear up some misconceptions on this issue. The compact will not grant the same rights to migrants as Irish nationals. It will not remove the distinction between legal and illegal migrants; rather it reinforces this distinction. The compact will not make criticising migration a crime, as some have claimed. It simply places an importance on combatting xenophobia and racism. I believe we all agree on the importance of that. The compact will not infringe on Ireland's ability to operate its own migration policy.

  While it is regrettable that some countries have decided to not participate at this time, and that the compact has become a kind of cause célèbre for far right parties in some countries, Ireland supports the objective of the compact. It provides a framework for co-operation through which Ireland can work with other countries on ensuring that legal migration, when it does occur, is as safe as possible and beneficial to all.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I accept the apologies of the Minister. I have spoken to him about this. As I said, while on the one hand what the Minister of State said is encouraging, I cannot fail to be concerned about the fact that only 48 convictions have emerged from the process since 2012. I do not want to be alarmist about this and I hope that what I say will not be taken out of context.

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