Emily Logan: ‘Significant steps’ forward for human rights in Ireland
2017-07-18 14:31:19 -
Immigration
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By Emily Logan

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), of which I am chief commissioner, is Ireland’s national human rights and equality institution. We are an independent public body, established in law, that accounts to the Oireachtas with a legal mandate to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The recent publication of our annual report for 2016 provides an opportunity for the IHREC not only to account formally to the Oireachtas on our work, but also to share our activity with those who support our work.

Part of the commission’s work as set out in our founding legislation is to “encourage good practice in intercultural relations, to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity in the State and respect for the freedom and dignity of each person.” This has been a significant focus of our work in 2016, continuing into 2017, and we have seen some significant steps forward.

For people seeking international protection, including those in direct provision, the IHREC has played a key role in the superior courts as amicus curiae (friend of the court) on clarifying the constitutional position of the right of people in the asylum process to seek employment.

The test case taken by a Burmese man who had spent eight years in direct provision saw a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June, clarifying the right of individuals in the asylum process to seek employment. This judgment is possibly the most important ruling of the Supreme Court on the entitlement of non-citizens to rely on the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Irish Constitution.

Since the publication of our policy statement on direct provision in 2014, the IHREC has been consistent in our recommendation that direct provision should be placed on a statutory footing, together with a time-limited period of between six and nine months, after which anyone who has not yet received a decision should be able to leave direct provision, live independently and access relevant social welfare payments.

The commission is further engaging in a Supreme Court appeal in the cases of two families from Mauritius, again as an amicus, to seek to clarify the importance of the protection of family and private life.

Informed policy

Having the evidence to make informed policy decisions is vital, and we are working on a programme of research on issues including examining how attitudes to immigration, and to different ethnic groups in Ireland, have changed in the past 12 years; analysing online hate speech and looking at the barriers to reporting in the Irish context; and looking at understanding the experience of discrimination in Ireland.

The IHREC has spoken out, including last year appearing before the Oireachtas and addressing the UN, on the need for the recognition of Traveller ethnicity. With the historic announcement made by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny in March, I commend the valiant and relentless efforts of those Traveller women and men who advocated for many years to see this historic day.

Finally, through our work on legislation, the commission has continued to stress both the vulnerability of migrant children on the move, and the reunification of families here in Ireland.

The IHREC has welcomed the streamlined single procedure under the International Protection Act, but has raised directly with Government the fact that under the new act, the eligibility of families is restricted to certain family members, and this is causing considerable hardship to refugee families. We will continue to seek reform in this area.

As the national body for equality and human rights, we are grateful for the overwhelming support we have received in our second year of operations and hope to further strengthen the relationships we have established, deepening the impact of the IIHREC in the future.


Emily Logan is chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
TAGS : Emily Logan IHREC Irish human rights and equality commission
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