Deportations must be humane

IF you are going to have a credible immigration policy then deportations are a natural consequence. Most people can understand that.

The story of Olunkunle Eluhanla is a reminder that deportations must involve both the application of a humanitarian outlook and some brains.

The reported facts of the case are approximately this: he arrived unaccompanied in Ireland when he was seventeen and claimed asylum. He went through the full asylum process and at the end of it was found to have failed to qualify for asylum. Deportation is a natural consequence of that decision.

Now there are those who will never support a deportation under any circumstances and who will always give the individual the benefit of doubt in these matters. And there are also those who believe that this earth is too small for barriers to stop any human moving from one part of it to another, that is, that all immigration laws are inherently unethical. Furthermore, there are those who believe that immigration law is there to validate and systemise inequality on this planet. I’m probably one of those people.

However, being a realist and a political animal I know that no electorate in Europe is going to consent to an open door policy.

So, again, where there is an immigration policy it logically follows that there must be deportations. I wearily accept that.

But no deportation policy can be acceptable that relegates deportees to mere numbers and that refuses to see them as people.

In the case of Olunkunle Eluhanla it’s quite obvious that no account was taken of his individual circumstances.

Firstly, he was allowed to stay here for two years and make his life here.

That amounts to a two year tease. What if the state had taken 20 years to make up its mind? Would it be still right to deport him?

Justice delayed is justice denied, as the saying goes. If Olunkunle Eluhanla was to be deported, then he should have been deported within a reasonable period or allowed stay.

Second, the state educated him for almost two years of his Leaving Cert and then sent him home within three months of his exams. Would another three months have bankrupted the State?

Thirdly, when someone has had such a long winded process there is one natural consequence of that: they become a part of the community. This means that when someone is deported that their Irish friends, colleagues and neighbours suffer as well. This is callous on all sides.

It seems to me that if someone makes a claim for asylum, then that claim should be dealt with speedily. It’s ridiculous for Michael McDowell, the great liberal, to claim that Olunkunle Eluhanla was the recipient of bountiful Irish state generosity when obviously his own Justice Department isn’t spending the money which would see his case investigated rapidly.

Ultimately, when the rights of someone gets lost in the machine, it’s time to get a new machine.