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Refugee Bill, 1995: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.

Wednesday, 28 February 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 462 No. 3

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Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Ms Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I move amendment No. 70:

In page 26, line 24, to delete “section 17 (8)” and substitute “subsection (2) or (8) of section 17”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 not moved.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob Zoom on Joe Jacob When is it proposed to take Fifth Stage?

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Now.

Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I move: “That the Bill do now pass.”

I thank all Members for their contributions. This Bill has had a very long passage, having been first brought before the House by the former Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn. A number of Members made very detailed observations and suggestions on Committee Stage which have been incorporated in the Bill, as amended in select committee.

There appears to be broad acceptance of the need to address legislatively the rights and needs of asylum seekers and refugees and the provisions of this Bill, [883] when implemented, will provide a fair basis for that.

I spoke earlier of the provision of free legal aid which, as many Members said, is indicative of our fundamental attitude to and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers who should have such free legal aid available to them. The framework of the proposed scheme was submitted to the Chief State Solicitor and referred to the Attorney General who, in turn, directed that counsel's opinion be sought, which is being done. When we receive his report I hope we will be in a position to implement a legal aid scheme which will meet all the conditions and aspirations enunciated by various organisations in this field. I want to thank particularly the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the non-governmental organisations who have been of enormous assistance to me and other Members on this matter. I hope we shall have a good legal aid scheme in place in time for the enforcement of the provisions of this Bill.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue Zoom on John O'Donoghue This is an enlightened Bill and its provisions will be of considerable assistance to unfortunate asylum seekers and refugees. I am very happy that we now statutorily recognise the plight of these persons who are extremely vulnerable and fearful and who, at times, require our assistance.

It is a humanitarian Bill and, while I did not succeed in having as many amendments accepted as I would have liked, the Minister of State dealt with them and our various proposals with great courtesy.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the contribution of the former Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, to this Bill on which I compliment her. I should also compliment the Minister of State and her officials on their tremendous work in the course of its passage.

I might also warmly thank the various interest groups, such as Amnesty International, the Irish Refugee Council and [884] others for their invaluable help in ensuring that the provisions of this Bill are as good as possible despite the constraints on the Minister.

Ms O'Donnell: Information on Liz O'Donnell Zoom on Liz O'Donnell I thank the Minister of State, her officials and the non-governmental organisations — experts in this area — who have helped in our deliberations. The Bill generated quite an unusual degree of interest by way of correspondence from members of the public, particularly those committed to this general issue of human rights. When the legislation comes into force, the standard of procedures for dealing with asylum seekers will be very high. The procedures have been well scrutinised. I was involved also in the previous Refugee Bill and this is our second opportunity to scrutinise the proposals. The Bill is all the better for having been scrutinised a second time. I wish it God speed. The proof of the Bill will be in how officers implement the strict procedures and achieve the high standard of practice in international human rights when dealing with people at the point of entry.

Question put and agreed to.

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