Residency rights and deportations – good news for some?

Having given the Minister for Justice a qualified welcome at the start of his term, the time has come to begin scrutinising the work of his Department on immigration and integration. Having abolished the office of the Minister for Integration and replaced it with an understaffed section called the office for the promotion of migrant integration, Minister Shatter has vowed to speed up citizenship applications – very good news, and introduce citizenship tests and citizenship ceremonies, less good news, but for some migrants a positive step all the same. And, last week his department granted residency to 850 non-EU parents of Irish citizen children, though only after the European Court of Justice ruled last March that the non-EU parents of EU citizens must be allowed to live and work in that EU state. 

Seems reasonable enough though not considering the length of time it took Ireland to extend this right to migrant parents of Irish citizens whose status was changed after the 2004 Citizenship Referendum, which, I maintain, was a major turning point in contemporary Irish state racism. If you remember, that referendum and the legislation that followed, changed the 83-years old jus solis citizenship entitlement according to which all people born on the island of Ireland had a right to Irish citizenship. And their parents, according to the 1990 Fajujonu Supreme Court ruling, had a right of residency. Changing this to jus sanguinis citizenship, according to which people born in Ireland had the right to become Irish citizens only if they had least one parent with citizenship entitlement, creating a two tier citizenship right. Citizen children born before 2005 were not entitled to have their parents in Ireland (although a large percentage were granted that right, albeit temporarily, after the state won the Citizenship Referendum). Moreover, in 2005 at least 20 Irish citizens were deported together with their non-citizen parents.

Minister Shatter’s move to implement the European Court of Justice ruling is to be commended. Not so his insistence on continuing to deport people deemed ‘failed asylum seekers’. I am totally against deportations because the threat of deportation causes fear and trauma to asylum seekers in direct provision holding camps (some 5,400 as we speak). People live in limbo, many for several years, with deportation orders pending yet not carried out. Deportations are also costly. As the Minister said in the Dail, it cost the state just under €1 million to deport 280 people. Deportations require close collaboration with other EU member states and are managed by Frontex, the commercial Warsaw-based EU agency which operationalises cooperation between EU states on border security and immigration control. This came to public knowledge last July as 12 Congolese and eight Nigerians on board a deportation flight costing €337,800 remained in Ireland as Algeria did not give permission for the flight intending to deport them. According to the Minister, “€22,000 was incurred by the Department in ancillary costs relating to this flight, such as securing documentation for the returnees and sending advance parties of Garda National Immigration Bureau members to Lagos and Kinshasa to ensure that landing permits and all other requirements were obtained in advance”.

So, if deportations are traumatic (particularly for children for whom Ireland has become home) and costly – why deport? Just as asylum seekers, despite the declining number in asylum applications, assist states in redrawing racial and national boundaries, deportations reaffirm nationhood.

According migrant parents of Irish citizen children residency rights is definitely good news. Another piece of good news is that a group of antiracism activists, mostly asylum seekers and former asylum seekers and their supporters, is getting together to plan an anti-deportation campaign. I’ll keep you posted.

Catherine Cosgrave of the Immigrant Council of Ireland commented on this post:

Of course the granting of residence to 850 parents of Irish children post-Zambrano case is positive but also important to note that this is far from end of the saga. The entitlement is being extremely narrowly applied and parents of Irish children, where there are no compelling reasons for refusal, are still being refused permission to live and work in Ireland. For example, you qualify if, as a single parent, you are a non-EEA national or if both parents are non-EEA nationals and don’t have a right of residence in the EU already, whatever about Ireland. However, if you are also a non-EEA national, perhaps in an Irish partner and you had previously established residence in another EU country… An application for permission to live and work in Ireland with your Irish partner and Irish child will be refused. The apparent logic being that there is no risk that your child will have to leave the EU.  I could go on and on…