Irish bishops defend refugees with children born in Ireland

 The Irish Bishops' Conference (IBC) has called on Mr Michael McDowell TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to address the situation of immigrants whose children are born in Ireland. Bishop Raymond Field, Chair of the IBC's Commission for Justice & Peace said: "I am making an urgent appeal on behalf of immigrant families who applied to reside in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish child. Their applications - officially put at some 11,000 - were made in accordance with Irish law and Department of Justice regulations in force at the time and under which more than 6,500 people have been granted residency right. However, following the Supreme Court judgment of 23 January 2003, the Department of Justice changed its regulations regarding residency." "I want to emphasize that, from an administrative and policy point of view, this group is in a special position as it comprises those who applied for residency before the January 2003 Supreme Court judgment. Allowing its members to remain cannot therefore create a precedent for future arrivals, nor would it indicate that the Government is prepared to permit abuse of the country's residency legislation. Political action is now required to remedy this anomaly," he said. Bishop Field continued: "After the Supreme Court ruling the Minister gave an assurance that each application would be fairly considered on a case-by-case basis. I want to draw attention to the fact that more than one year later, there is still little indication of how the Minister intends to honour this assurance. It is a matter of deep concern that several hundred of those parents with applications pending have been notified of a proposal to deport them. No information is available on the criteria by which their applications will be judged and, in addition, the Minister has stated that they do not have a right to free legal aid." Noting that 2004 is the 10th anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family, Bishop Field concluded that "regularisation of the residency of these families is the only moral response". Source: Irish Bishops Conference Media Office

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