Public Consultation on Immigration Policy
Immigration Control Platform would wish to begin this submission by stressing that we do not pursue a zero immigration policy nor are we anti-business.
We do, however, come from a position of looking at the situation of Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium and other countries in relation to immigration and of saying quite clearly that we do not envy them their levels of immigration, do not wish to emulate them and do not believe that Irish people in general wish to emulate them.
We also recognise the important role and voice of business in society and the need for Government to be sensitive to its needs for the good of the economy and consequently society as a whole. We stress, however, that business is but one voice, albeit an important one, in society and that immigration policy cannot be framed solely or almost solely on the views of business. Ireland is a society, not just an economy, and long-term concerns about the desirable level of immigration and about social cohesion must weigh heavily on government.
As Dr. Alan Barrett of the E.S.R.I. has said a liberal view on the issue of immigration is typical of employers' organisations:-
"Obviously, employers' most basic interest is in profit and, therefore, any policy that increases their profits will generally be supported by IBEC.
When it comes to immigration policy, employers' profits are best served by a steady supply of labour. Like any resource, when the supply of labour is tight relative to demand, its price rises. To maintain lower wages - and hence higher profits - employers want to ensure that the supply of labour does not get too tight. Immigration is one way of ensuring a steady labour supply.
Of course, employers do not say that they want to keep downward pressure on wages by increasing labour supply through immigration. They put it in terms of skill shortages and people not being available. But from an economist's perspective, skill shortages are typically solved through increased wages.
There may well be very specific cases where individuals with required skills are not available but, in general, if wages rise far enough, employees become available.
Given IBEC's interest in increasing labour supply, it is clear why they are eager to see asylum seekers granted the right to work.
It is also likely that pressure from business has contributed to the number of work permits being issued to non-EU citizens, which has increased from around 4,000 in the mid-l990s to 18,000 last year (and 17,000 in the first six months of 2001 - I.C.P.)
Clearly, the work-permit expansion has benefited business, as would the relaxation in regulations facing asylum-seekers if it were introduced. But are these sensible policies from the national perspective?
The short-term view that characterizes IBEC's position on asylum seekers can also be seen in the huge increase in the number of work permits being granted. These extra employees are a bonus to the economy now but we have to ask what will happen when the economy turns down.
As work permits are issued for one year, some might think that unemployed immigrants will leave. International experience says that this is not so. What is more likely is the development of a set of illegal immigrants with the corresponding characteristics of social exclusion.
Business's views on immigration serve their purposes well in the short-term - and those of the economy. But in an economic downturn, business may no longer have need for immigrant labour.
At that point, society will have to deal with the results of a short-sighted policy. (Irish Times 29th July 2001).
Note also the remarks in the Report of the Inter-Departmental/Agency Group on Immigration Policy:- Business interests are usually supportive of "open-door" policies as they raise business income through being able to produce more output within contained wage costs. In shaping immigration policy it is necessary to consider not only the private and indeed national benefits arising but also to factor in the social costs which would include social security entitlements (and costs relating to social cohesion - I.C.P.) (Section 7.1.2).
The consultative document says that the proposed legislation will contain a general statement of principles to be observed in operating and developing the Irish immigration system in line with the requirement for an Act which gives a power to make subsidiary legislation. Given that "migratory pressures", more properly called illegal immigration, are acknowledged as being a huge issue for the 21st century, we urge that those stated principles should emphasise control and the sovereignty of the State over borders at least as much, we would say more, than the facilitative principles.
Business sets no limits to growth. Societies do. Immigration policy needs to be informed by a national consensus as to the levels of growth which are desirable. Recent media reports which calculated an immigrant inflow of 100,000 for 2001 are unacceptably high in our opinion. Compare this figure with the estimate of 49,000 for 2001 given in Table 5.6 of the Report of the Inter-Departmental/Agency Group on Immigration Policy. Recent C.S.O. population predictions will have left people aghast rather than in celebratory mood at the implications particularly for Dublin and the Eastern sea-board. (See article in Irish Times 29th June 2001 by Marian Finnegan - "Perhaps even more worrying would be the impact of such a population increase on the quality of life in an already congested Dublin"). This principle of sustainability was proposed by I.C.P. at its 1999 A.G.M. in the following motion which was later advised to government:-
"This AGM endorses the view that unlimited growth of the economy, irrespective of social consequences, is not a sound policy for Ireland; that sustainable growth and full employment for our people and a good standard of living, while maintaining social cohesion is the best national aim.
Immigration Policy at European Level
I.C.P. strongly favours the retention of our opt-out on immigration and asylum as covered in the Fourth Protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty. We are happy for Ireland to opt into control measures such as Eurodac but not to any other type of measure. The position of "willingness to participate in measures to the maximum extent compatible with the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the U.K." is too loose for our liking. We strongly favour national control over asylum and immigration matters as a matter of principle and not just pragmatic necessity.
We note that in the consultative document (p.8) there is a strong implication that one of the reasons for a move away from "zero" immigration at European level is the fact that "There have been great migratory pressures in recent years and an accompanying increase in illegal immigration, smuggling and trafficking".
"Migratory pressures" is euphemistic language for illegal immigration and we categorically reject the idea of less restrictive immigration laws as a response to illegal immigration.
The response "let's open the front door because they are sneaking in the back door" results from the abrogation by governments of their responsibilities to defend national frontiers.
Immigration policy should be framed solely from the viewpoint of the needs of the receiving state. Advocacy groups, immigration and asylum lobbyists and a compliant media have been promoting the type of rationale and policy mentioned above. It is a line of least resistance which we deplore as a dereliction of responsibility. Legal immigration must never be a response to illegal immigration.
Who Should Come?
We note that the Department intends to commission a study of international legislation and practice in the field of immigration. In Chapter 4 of the Report of the Inter-Departmental/Agency Group on Immigration Policy the countries of comparison were almost entirely the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While it is, of course, proper to take from these what is suitable one would expect that Ireland would bring a different approach considering that the immigrant character and experience of these countries is unique in the world. So much is this the case that the U.N.H.C.R., for example, has a specific terminology which refers to these four countries; namely "the countries of permanent settlement".
We note with approval, however, the characteristics of their system to which attention is drawn in Section 4.6 of the Group's Report, especially a) and c). In relation to nationality, language, etc. it would be the position of I.C.P. that labour market immigration should tend as far as possible to be such as would minimize rather than maximize ethnic and racial differences.
I.C.P. is entirely at one with two principles which were set out in the Report of the Inter-Departmental/Agency Group on Immigration Policy (presented to Government March 2000). Those two principles were:-
The principle that immigration policy should be directed at meeting our labour market needs which are primarily for high skill, human capital intensive employment. (Section 7.1.3).
The principle that there should be what the report calls "an expanding order of priority" i.e. firstly EU/EEA (the unemployed in Ireland, the Irish abroad, mobility within the island of Ireland, Member States). Then Non-EEA (EU applicant countries, the Rest of the World) (Section 7.2.1).
We strongly endorse the warnings of the Group, agreed with by many commentators, on the dangers of low-skilled immigration.
We particularly endorse Recommendations 6 (relating to the use of Eures) and 7 (relating to selected EU applicant countries - as long as it strictly enforced) of the Report of the Group.
If there is to be preferential treatment for countries with traditional links with Ireland, this should specifically not include countries where that link is primarily missionary or aid activity. This is particularly important if such reference is to appear in the legislation.
Where there is already a preponderance of any ethnic grouping in the State (legally, illegally or semi-legally) as with e.g. Chinese and Nigerians further immigration from such areas should be disallowed. Such an ethnic community when well-established is a focus for further immigration, including illegal.
Current Work Permits and Working Visa Schemes
The Community and Voluntary pillar of Social Partnership has expressed concern that immigrant workers are open to exploitation by employers.
"We are concerned that immigrant visas are being used by some employers as a source of cheap and easily exploited labour which can be used to displace older workers.
In order to be granted visas, an employer is required (supposedly) to prove that the labour cannot be sourced domestically. However, this requirement is not being implemented, to the detriment of both immigration and domestic labour. We call on the government to ensure that the correct procedures are implemented", it says in its response to the Government's Employment Action Plan. (Irish Independent July 3rd 2001).
I.C.P. shares these concerns and endorses the views of the Community and Voluntary pillar quoted above. We find it difficult to comprehend that it is necessary to go to South Africa to bring a young woman to wait on tables in Bewley's of Grafton Street at a minimum wage. (See story - Irish Independent July 7th, 2001). Given the unemployment levels in Eastern Europe, this is hardly consistent with the "Expanding Order of Priority" mentioned above. This is not how the Work Permits scheme should be allowed to operate. In a case like this an employer can probably bring someone in in these circumstances on the assumption that a rent allowance will be available to them which will allow the employer to get away with paying the minimum wage.
Rent allowances should not be paid to those on Work Permits or Working Visas. This would have the effect of limiting the inflow to the well-skilled and well-paid and make it less easy to exploit the system as a way of paying low wages. Why should the Irish tax-payer subsidise greedy employers by paying for rent allowances for those brought in by employers to work on low wages.
In relation also to the work permits and working visa schemes it was recently reported in the "Labour Force 2001 - Economic Immigration (The Chambers of Commerce of Ireland) that in a survey of why they hired non-nationals 63% of employers said it was "because they were the best". This is actually at odds with the regulations if these were non-E.E.A. If it were, for example, the case that Indian I.T. professionals were considered to be the "the best" that would not allow their employment in preference to E.E.A. nationals. They must fill posts for which a suitable applicant cannot be found, which is another matter entirely.
Regarding the alleged difficulties of employers with the Work Permits scheme, we note with interest the remarks in Section 7.3.2 of the Report of the Interdepartmental/Agency Group on Immigration Policy:-
"The Work Permit regime is robust. Employers and other interested parties need to be educated on the criteria and operation of the Work Permit system. Those who make frequent use of the system find it responsive to their needs". The last sentence appears to be a diplomatically worded rebuff to the criticism of employers about the "difficulties" of the system. In everyday language "If you read the form and were functionally literate instead of lazy and careless you wouldn't have a problem!"
A further example of lazy employers who want the State to work as an unpaid Human Resources Manager for them with almost no effort on their part is again put in very diplomatic language in Section 6.3 of the Report.
"In order to get an update on the vacancy situation the Group was anxious to see the results of the annual vacancy survey which was repeated in Autumn 1999. Unfortunately, despite every effort on the part of the ESRI to get the data in from enterprises the Group did not have available to it the outcome of the 1999 survey. This meant the Group did not have available to it any up-to-date comparable data from which trends could be discerned.
Quotas or Working Permits and Working Visas?
Prima facie I.C.P. would not favour the idea of a centralized quota system and would prefer the work permit and selective working visa scheme already in place. [Note however, our worries about both of those schemes being too laxly applied as expressed elsewhere in this submission]. If a quota system were to come into operation, a points system would be required. In such a points system there should be a heavy preferential weighting for the single as opposed to married so that family members will not add to the immigrant numbers. Such a distinction, which cannot, quite properly, of course, be made between existing members of society can be made in relation to those not yet granted entry. (See for example the question of distinction on grounds of nationality raised in your consultative document (p.11). To avoid an abuse of the work permits and working visa schemes they should be strictly monitored and monthly figures published on the numbers of immigrants allowed per industry.
Short-term versus Long-term Immigration
In relation to whether one should have short-term or long-term immigration there is a concerted effort by immigration lobbyists and advocacy groups and their many media side-kicks to rubbish ab initio the concept of the short-term immigrant worker. They employ the German term "guest-worker" which has developed negative nuances; they often prefer to use the actual German "gastarbeiter" (as, for example, Ronit Lentin of TCD) hoping to evoke an even more negative set of nuances. (It is not unlikely that some of them hope a brain-cell will flash with an associative "Arbeit macht frei").
This biased attempt to demonise the concept of the short-term immigrant worker should be seen through and resisted. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a short-term work contract in a foreign country. It is part of the life-experience of some of the highest-flyers in the working world:- diplomats, consultants, I.D.A. managerial people, people on secondment to the U.N., World Bank, engineers on big projects etc. It is also beloved as the "year abroad" of young people adding to their life experience. As long as it is upfront and rigorously implemented there is nothing wrong with the short-term work permit or working visa.
Bruce Morrisson said as much on a recent visit to Ireland where he discussed immigration matters with Government representatives, though the Irish Times put a spin on his words which made him seem to denigrate the short-term work permit (they would, wouldn't they).
"If you decide that Ireland is going to be an immigration country then questions like whether they are going to go home at some stage, should be dealt with before people come. Don't make the mistake Germany made by bringing in people as 'guestworkers' and then found that they were still living in the country years afterward, even though they were originally meant to be temporary residents.
If you run a temporary scheme, time frames have to be short, otherwise people put down roots and won't go home. You have to tell people upfront how it works and that they will have to leave once the scheme runs out. (Our emphasis).
If, on the other hand, you keep people permanently, either explicitly, which is the right way to do, or implicitly by letting the temporary become permanent, then they become part of your nation going forward. They will suffer an economic downturn along with you but they should not be treated as a reason for the problem. The downturn itself is the issue and immigrants should not be treated as a scapegoat for a recession. These are all issues the Irish Government will have to face now, not in a couple of years".
(Business & Finance 12-18 April 2001).
Immigration of Non-EU Nationals to Set up Businesses
We consider that non-EU nationals should only be allowed to enter to set up businesses if they are to be significant employers and can show proof of a good business background.
The consultative document raises the question of non-nationals retiring to Ireland. Given the following facts:-
the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK and the fact that many British have already chosen Ireland for retirement
the extraordinary number of people outside the country entitled to Irish citizenship
the fact that the elderly put a particular strain on health and social services
the recent "honeypot" fact that medical cards are now to be available to over 70s without a means test
It is undesirable that we should allow non-nationals to retire here.
While there will undoubtedly continue to be many non-nationals in third-level and further education in Ireland we have grave worries about the level of students (particularly from China) entering the country "to study English". There is suspicion that a lot of this is a "front" for longer-term immigration to the country. There have been reports that some of these "students" do not attend their classes. It is very strange that it is reported that the Government has been aiding colleges in the advertising of these services abroad.
We would also have worries about students from developing countries attending "development courses". We do not have statistical information on the numbers of these who for asylum or other reasons remain in the country after their courses but it would seem an area where caution should prevail.
We are also worried that permission was recently given for overseas students to engage in work while here. This is, in our opinion, a retrograde step.
Immigration as Development Aid
We would be completely opposed to the idea that immigration should be seen as a way to aid developing countries. There are advocacy groups, development organisations, church groups and others such as Piaras Mac Einri of the Centre for Migration Studies (U.C.C.) who would make the case that as well as bringing in those with the skills our labour market needs we should bring people from the "developing world" on charitable or developmental grounds, as it were. We strongly oppose any such suggestion.
Immigration and development are separate issues. Ireland has recently decided to reach the U.N. target of 0.7% of GNP in development aid by 2007, effectively quadrupling the current aid budget. That, and arguably fairer trade, is the way to go - not the encouragement of immigration from the developing world.
There is a strange contradiction in the consultative document's reference to this matter (p.11), where it raises the question of "short-term immigration for training-purposes of persons from countries concerned" and yet talks of the potential dangers of such an approach if it were to result in a "brain drain". If it were short-term there would not be a brain-drain. Is there an implied admission here that many such people do not in fact return? If so such immigration should, of course, not be encouraged.
There is no greater encouragement of and prop to illegal immigration than the willingness of employers to hire illegals. People cannot live on fresh air. They enter a state or remain illegally on the assumption that they will be able to get into the labour market. Only the severest penalties on employers, well policed, will address this. This is properly the remit of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment but as the consultative document says (p.14) immigration-related matters cut across various government departments. The Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment has stated that the new Work Permits Bill will contain penalties for illegal employment of non-nationals. We urge the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to in turn urge the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to ensure that these are severe and well-policed. We are not encouraged by the report (Sunday Business Post 1st July 2001) that the labour inspectorate found approx. 400 breaches of minimum wage levels since April 2000 but that only one prosecution was pending as "Most breaches are rectified very quickly once employers realise (our emphasis) they are not in compliance with the minimum wage". This smacks of velvet glove treatment.
In the case of the illegal employment of non-nationals, unless employers are justifiably too frightened to risk it the fight against illegal immigration is lost. The current level of 17 in the labour inspectorate will need to be greatly expanded if it is to be effective. This increase in the labour inspectorate should be put in place before the setting up of the Immigration Agency.
The Department's record on removing illegals from the State is deplorable. Leaving aside those related to the asylum process (Dublin Convention, failed asylum-seekers, though these are also at an absolutely deplorable level), the number of illegals deported per month, even since the establishment of the Garda National Immigration Bureau is a national disgrace.
By definition, one does not know the number of illegals in the state but the general level of immigration of all forms currently coming into the state, international experience and plain common sense would indicate that the level is quite high. In this context, the monthly figures for the deportation of illegals is an insult to the citizenry.
Jan 2001 Nil
Feb 2001 Q
March 2001 2
April 2001 Nil
May 2001 8
The citizenship problem - and it is an enormous problem - overshadows this entire issue of immigration. We are unique in the E.U. in that anyone born on the island of Ireland (since the change in Articles 2 & 3 of the Constitution) has automatic right to citizenship. This cannot be allowed to continue. Paul Cullen (pp.59/60 "Refugees and Asylum-Seekers in Ireland") has said "The Department of Justice will also have to address the thorny issue of citizenship... However, altering the law in this area may first require an amendment to the Constitution".
It will be pointless for the State to set a limit to the stay of any non-national, be they visitor, student, worker with a permit of limited duration or illegal immigrant if the non-national in question has a child while here and in tandem with the current application of the Fajujonu judgement uses that fact to remain.
It is our contention that the Fajujonu judgement does not justify the current administrative practice of giving residency status to the parents of such children and that a test case needs to be taken to establish this [See Appendix/Attachment]. However, even without the Fajujonu judgement, it is unacceptable that we remain the only country in the E.U. where citizenship may be obtained in this way. Parents would still come to gain this for their children even if it did not ensure residency for themselves. This must be urgently addressed.
Section after section of the proposed Immigration and Residence Bill will be built on straw without a change in the citizenship law.
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