Press Centre

Irish Immigration Law breaches UN Convention of Human Rights, says new Report by MRCI

NEWS RELEASE: 28 MARCH 2011

A new report by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has highlighted that ethnic profiling, a form of racial discrimination, is being facilitated by the Irish state.

The report ‘Singled Out’ is an exploratory study on ethnic profiling in Ireland. It gives shocking insights to the treatment of Black and ethnic minority communities travelling to and from Northern Ireland and in police/immigration/security checks in the Republic.   Observation work identified that Black and ethnic minority communities were the focus of discriminatory checks on trains, buses and on the street.

MRCI Director, Siobhán O’ Donoghue said “Irish citizens are not required to carry ID, yet Irish immigration legislation states that ‘non nationals’ have to present ID on demand.  Guards and Immigration Officers are clearly making judgements on who to ask for ID on the basis of their colour, accent and appearance and this is recognised internationally as discriminatory”.

She went on to say ‘we welcome the High Court decision last Friday which ruled that Section 12 of the Immigration Act is unconstitutional. Section 12 makes it a criminal offence for ‘non nationals’ not to produce ID on demand.

One person whose experience is included in the report described being forcibly removed from a train and detained in a police cell despite having photo ID and proof of his legal status. Others spoke about their fears for children as they grow up under a constant cloud of suspicion that they have done something wrong.  ‘There will be second and third generation Irish citizens and it will be divisive; it will cause bigger problems down the road…’ said one person subjected to ethnic profiling.  Members of the public interviewed for the research assumed that people being checked ‘were illegal’.

Avila Kilmurray, Director of the Community Foundation Northern Ireland said, “The practice of ethnic profiling is having a detrimental impact on the integration of immigrant families. It is fuelling racism towards Black and ethnic minorities, and having to live with the constant assumption of guilt creates feelings of alienation.” She went on to say, “Ireland, North and South, is a diverse and multicultural society.  Singling people out on the basis of their appearance or colour reinforce divisions and inequality.

Ms O’ Donoghue warned that, ‘The practice of ethnic profiling only serves to diminish the capacity of An Garda Siochana to do their job well’. She said ‘International research now recognises that ethnic profiling apart from fuelling racism is an inefficient and ineffective use of public resources. Checks and inspections should only be done on the basis of ‘reasonable suspicion’ and not on the colour of a person’s skin, accent or appearance.”

Ends

Notes for editors:

  1. Ethnic profiling involves targeting people for the purposes of security and public safety while relying on stereotypes about ethnicity such as colour, nationality, religion rather than on reasonable suspicion.
  1. In 2009 the UN Human Rights Committee found that police identity checks motivated by race or ethnicity run counter to the international human right to nondiscrimination. Ireland is therefore most likely in breach of international and European human rights legislation.
  1. The report ‘Singled Out’ is available at www.mrci.ie from 6pm 27th March 2009