McDowell not for turning on immigration


The Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has reiterated he will not reconsider other recent deportation cases in the wake of his decision to allow deported Nigerian student Olukunle Elukanlo return to Ireland to sit his Leaving Certificate.

Community groups in Athlone and Castleblayney have called on the Minister to re-examine cases involving three Nigerian families who had integrated into their communities and to consider letting them back to Ireland. However, Mr McDowell said that reversing such decisions would make the current deportation system "chaotic".

Speaking on radio yesterday, Mr McDowell said he would not be acting, based on "the length of petitions", the fact that some people were academically gifted, or the fact they had become involved in local community groups and organisations. "I am clear in my own mind that what I'm doing is correct," Mr McDowell said on the Sunday Supplement show on Today FM.

"If I was to base deportation decisions on these issues, I would have a totally chaotic deportation system."

He also claimed that if the State were to adopt a more relaxed attitude towards people who went through the asylum system, and were rejected, it would fuel the cases of racist groups claiming the asylum system was not working.

"It will play straight into the hands of racists in Irish politics. It would be used by people with a racist agenda," Mr McDowell claimed.

The Minister reiterated his position that the decision on Olukunle Elukanlo was a once-off. "I'm not in any sense doing a U-turn on immigration policies."

He said the "great proportion of people" agreed with his position that asylum laws needed to be enforced through deportation, and that people who have been refused asylum "must go home, except in wholly exceptional circumstances".

Mr McDowell said that by applying for asylum in Ireland, people were giving a "clear undertaking" they would leave if their applications were unsuccessful. The Irish asylum system was much more liberal than many countries, he said.

He cited the example of Australia, where people are held in holding centres pending a decision on their cases, and compared it with Ireland, where children of asylum seekers were given access to education, and their cases went through an independent assessment system.

"We have a different system here, we have a very, very generous system." He said he recognised that some families who were deported had become integrated into the community, but that they all had the option of avoiding enforced deportation by leaving voluntarily.

"That's the option all the people deported here effectively ignored."

He also questioned some of the information given by Nigerians who applied for asylum who, for example, claimed they had taken direct flights to Ireland when there were none, or that they had been given money by unknown Irish priests to help flee Nigeria.

John Waters: page 14