Ireland: Joe Higgins MP condemns reactionary “Immigration Bill 2004”

Mr J. Higgins: The haste in which the Minister is pushing this Bill through Dáil Éireann (Parliament) is not just indecent but obscene. The Government, when it comes to targeting the vulnerable, cannot hasten enough. However, when it comes to targeting the landlords, the financiers or the legal robbers of the people of this State, we have no such haste. Owing to lack of time, I will go immediately to the most repugnant sections of this Bill, sections 9(2)(c), (d) and (e), which state that "a non-national shall comply with the following requirements as to registration".They read as follows:

During a Parliamentary debate in Southern Ireland held on 4 February 2004, concerning the ’Immigration Bill 2004", Joe Higgins TD (MP for the Socialist Party, the CWI’s affiliate in southern Ireland) condemned Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell’s reactionary proposals. The Minister, as his defence, makes a bizarre reference to Leon Trotsky’s assassination at the hands of the Stalinists. online

MP condemns reactionary "Immigration Bill 2004"

(c) he or she shall, if about to change his or her residence, furnish to the registration officer for the registration district in which he or she is then resident particulars as to the date on which his or her residence is to be changed and as to his or her intended place of residence;

(d) on effecting any change of residence from one registration district to another, he or she shall, within 48 hours of his or her arrival in the other registration district report his or her arrival to the registration officer for that district;

Section 9(3) is the worst part of this section. It states that if a non-national has no residence, meaning no fixed abode – his or her regular residence, if you like – he or she shall attend at the office of a registration officer and, so far as possible, supply the particulars that would be required under this section if he or she were resident in the district of that officer, and shall report to the registration officer for any other district in which he or she stays for more than 24 hours.

The last place provisions such as this were notoriously enforced was Stalinist Russia. A person had to inform the KGB of every move he or she made. It was notorious for visitors from abroad, so-called aliens or non-nationals. To find a Minister, who probably deludes himself into thinking he is a paradigm of liberalism of some sort, imposing a provision such as this is quite incredible, but worse is to come. Section 9(4) beggars belief. It states:

If a non-national who is required under this section to register or report is lodging with, or living as a member of the household of, any other person, it shall be the duty of that person to take steps (either by giving notice to the registration officer of the presence of the non-national in his or her household or otherwise) to secure compliance with the terms of the Act.

This is quite incredible. A non-national may be lodging in a flat with a few other Irish workers and the Minister is turning them into policemen for the State. This is not the Stalinism of the 1970s or the 1980s, but of the 1930s. It is quite incredible. Fortunately, I could not go to Stalinist Russia when it was in its hard-line phase because with my philosophy of democratic socialism, I possibly would not have come out safely. I went there shortly after it fell and they still had some of the bad habits—–

Mr. McDowell: They might have given the Deputy an ice pick as a souvenir

Mr. J. Higgins: —–and, therefore, we were subjected to rigorous screening. This will be carried on by the gardaí who will have the right to go into a hotel or otherwise where non-nationals are staying and demand to look at the register and to take it with them. It is absolutely incredible. They will be able to arrest non-nationals without warrant. This means pinpointing people living on this island on a racial basis. That is, in practice, what it will come down to. Gardaí will not approach every white person on the street but one can be sure people of a different colour will immediately be singled out as being non-national and subject to these checks.

This notoriously resembles what used to happen on the underground in France, and possibly still does. Fleets of special police move in to target immigrants which means targeting people of different colours. It is absolutely incredible that the Minister, who fancies himself as a liberal, would push this kind of legislation through under the guise of controlling, or regulating, immigration in this State.

I ask the Minister to think again about these reprehensible and noxious provisions included in this Bill. If he wants to bring in a Bill regulating, or providing for, people who are not born in this State residing here, that is fine. He can bring it before the House, we can have a proper debate on it and the same democratic provisions can be open to them as are open to everybody else. The Minister should not scapegoat them in this noxious way by including such provisions in the Bill, and I have only had time to point out a few.

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February 2004