Children’s rights treated with disdain by the Department of Justice says Irish Refugee Council

Posted On: 22 September 2011

Thursday, 27 January 2011:

On 18th January 2011, Dermot Ahern TD, in his capacity as Minister for Justice, provided a written answer to a number of questions put to him by TDs about the treatment of Nigerian nationals on board a flight from Dublin to Lagos on 15th December 2010, 13 of whom were children.  He rejected the call for an independent enquiry into the conduct of the GNIB and stated:

“I am satisfied that the deportation on 15th December 2010 was properly conducted”

The Irish Refugee Council says his lengthy reply failed to address the detailed and specific allegations made about the conduct of GNIB officers.  These included the handcuffing and possible sedation of a mother with young children, the humiliation of adults denied privacy in the use of toilet facilities, the embarrassment of teenage boys forced to urinate into bottles in view of each other and unknown adults, the failure to provide any reasonable refreshment for children and the incommunicado detention of the group for nearly 24 hours.  He simply referred to the disruption that occurs when a flight does not proceed as normal and therefore equated the treatment to that experienced by passengers on a commercial flight.

On board the flight on 15th December were a total of 99 adults and children who were being deported to Nigeria, one of whom was Irish.  Eleven EU countries took part in the deportation but the Irish group made up 35% of the total.  Only the Irish group included children, who made up 13% of the total group.  In fact, only the Irish group included mothers and children.

The shock and disbelief at the treatment of this group, called the ‘Frontex 35’, caused many groups and individuals in Ireland to support the Irish Refugee Council’s call for an independent enquiry into the deportation.  Many of the NGOs were those who work specifically with and on behalf of children.  But the Department of Justice has not seen fit to reply to these calls except in a cursory  response from the Minister to the Dail.

Ireland, as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, has an obligation to investigate claimed breaches of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, in this case, the allegations of inhuman and degrading treatment of the children which was clearly laid before the Minister.  Article 37 of the Children’s Convention states:

“No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment….No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily….Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age….Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance.”

The Department of Justice, despite its title, appears either to be unaware of its obligation or content to treat its obligation with contempt.  It is sad day when the weakest in society are seen as expendable.