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"End Use of Prisons for Immigration Purposes" says new report

1st November 2005

A new report to be published today calls for sweeping changes in the use of immigration-related detention in Ireland.  The independent report - published jointly by the Irish Refugee Council, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Irish Penal Reform Trust - examines current legislation, policy and practice and benchmarks it against international human rights standards.

The report, entitled Immigration-related Detention in Ireland, was prepared by Mark Kelly, Director of Human Rights Consultants in Dublin.  It will be launched at 2pm today at European Union House, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.

Until recently, it was comparatively rare for people to be detained for immigration-related reasons in Ireland. However, a range of statutory detention powers have been introduced to authorise the detention of people for various immigration-related reasons.  Official figures published for the first time in this report show that, in 2003-2004, a total of 2,798 people were held in prison for immigration-related reasons. In 2004, some two thirds of those detained were held in prison for periods of longer than 51 days.

"We commissioned this research due to an increasing number of queries relating to people detained for immigration-related reasons," said Peter O'Mahony of the Irish Refugee Council.  "We were also concerned that there was a general lack of clarity and knowledge on the rights and entitlements of those detained, the legal basis for their detention and their treatment during the period of detention.  This report examines for the first time these issues in detail and makes recommendations to bring Irish legislation and practice in line with international standards."

"People can be detained for immigration reasons without being charged with any criminal offence.  They are a particularly disadvantaged group, who are away from the public eye and may not have access to services available for other immigrants," said Denise Charlton of the Immigrant Council of Ireland. "They may not be made aware of their rights and entitlements or may be unable to exercise them because of language and/or literacy difficulties or problems due to cultural differences. These issues are often compounded for detainees who are not entitled to legal aid."

Over 90% of people detained for immigration-related reasons are held in one of two prisons in Dublin: Cloverhill Prison and the Dóchas Centre at Mountjoy Prison.  The report's author carried out private interviews with immigration-related detainees in both establishments, and examined their living conditions.  He found that  immigration detainees are being kept in overcrowded conditions, together with people suspected and / or convicted of criminal offences.

"The findings of this independent research report serve to confirm that prisons are, by definition, inappropriate places in which to hold immigration detainees," said Claire Hamilton, Chairperson of the Irish Penal Reform Trust. "Our organisations believe that the practice of holding immigration detainees in prisons in Ireland must be brought to an end."

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