Dáil Éireann - Volume 571 - 30 September, 2003

Written Answers. - Anti-Racism Measures.

  1234. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on his communications with the Garda national immigration bureau regarding reported incidents of racist abuse of asylum seekers by immigration officials at Dublin Airport, and reports that immigration officials have turned asylum seekers back at port of entry, thus denying them an opportunity to make their claim to convention refugee status; whether all such reported incidents have been thoroughly investigated; the measures he intends to take to ensure that all such behaviour ceases; and whether he will reconsider his previous position and grant immediate approval for an independent monitoring presence at all ports of entry. [21287/03]

  Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Members of An Garda Síochána employed as immigration officers are subject to the Garda Síochána (Complaints) Act 1986. It is open to any member of the public, who has been directly affected by, or who witnesses, conduct of the nature described by the Deputy, to make a complaint to the Garda Síochána Complaints Board.

  The law dealing with the processing of applications for a declaration as a refugee is contained in the Refugee Act 1996, as amended. Section 9(1) of that Act requires that a person who claims asylum upon arrival at a port of entry to the State be granted leave to land by an immigration officer. Prior to the implementation of the Act in November 2000, immigration officers received training which emphasised, inter alia, their obligation to assist asylum applicants in making their applications. All members of the Garda Síochána employed on immigration duty are well aware of their legal obligation to receive such applications. With regard to the immigration unit at Dublin Airport it should be pointed out that between 1 January 2000 and 26 September 2003, a total of 5,571 persons applied for asylum at Dublin Airport and their applications were dealt with in accordance with the law by members of the Garda Síochána attached to the Garda national immigration bureau at Dublin Airport.

  The processing of applications for asylum is part of the daily routine of members of the Garda Síochána who are employed on immigration duty at all ports of entry to the State. Dublin Airport, it should be pointed out, accounts for the largest number of applications for asylum when compared with any other port of entry to the State. The Garda Síochána is not aware of any instances in which their members deployed as immigration officers have removed asylum seekers from the State without giving them the opportunity to [752] make an asylum claim. Garda management would not under any circumstances tolerate any failure by their members to process applications for asylum as required by law. I have no plans to allow a monitoring presence at ports of entry.