Belfast Telegraph

Call to widen Ombudsman's remit

Vulnerable immigrants were left without an independent voice when the Ombudsman's office was not opened to them, campaigners have claimed.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) said Irish and foreign nationals are being denied the protection of the Office of the Ombudsman because it can not probe immigration services.

The Government this week moved to bring 140 additional public bodies under the remit of Emily O'Reilly's office.

Denise Charlton, ICI chief executive, said she shared Ms O'Reilly's disappointment that her powers have not been extended to include the immigration process.

"The Government's refusal to extend the Ombudsman's role to this area not only leaves people without an independent avenue of complaint in cases of poor administration, but in extreme cases can deny vulnerable migrants access to emergency supports and services," she said.

"This failure not only lets down vulnerable migrants, but also a system which has undergone many improvements in recent years."

Ms Charlton said people often access the Immigration and Naturalisation Service during a time of turmoil and change in their personal lives.

"Many are attempting to get loved ones into Ireland, others are attempting to regularise their own position in the country while victims of trafficking turn to the service for protection," she added.

ICI plans to ask the Department of Justice to review the current position and meet with the Ombudsman to examine if any interim steps can be taken to extend the protections of her office to those using the Immigration and Naturalisation Service.

The Ombudsman examines complaints from members of the public who feel they have been unfairly treated by certain public bodies. Her powers have been extended to allow her carry out independent investigations into the third level sector, the National Treatment Purchase Fund, Fas, the Irish Medical Council and the Family Support Agency.

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