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The absurdity of Ireland’s self-deportation system

On Tuesday of this week, my colleague Fatima reported on the story of one Bruno Binda De Souza, released, this week, from the midlands prison. DeSouza was locked up by Judge Martin Nolan, having been found in possession of thousands of images of child pornography, or, to give them a more appropriate name, images of child sex abuse.

DeSouza is also under a deportation order, and is in the country illegally. As he was, indeed, at the time of his arrest, conviction, and imprisonment.

Ireland uses a rather odd system for deportation orders: It expects the person subject to the order to enforce it upon themselves. It’s a system known as “self deportation”.

The theory is simply that a court issues an order that you be removed from the country, and that then, you must remove yourself from the country within a set period of time.

It is the only court order, as I understand it, which is solely up to its subject to enforce. Every year, hundreds, possibly thousands, of people, simply ignore these orders and continue to live in Ireland, mostly without apprehension or penalty.

Indeed, there is not even an obligation to inform the state, or the courts, whether you have carried out the court’s order. Consider this, from the Irish Times, just a week or so ago:

A total 177 people who were made the subject of deportation orders have left the State so far this year, most on a voluntary basis, according to figures released by the Department of Justice.

While the total number of live deportation orders is about 12,000, many of those are “historical” and relate to people who voluntarily left the State without informing the authorities, a department spokesman said.

There is no evidence provided for the statement made in the second paragraph: The state is simply assuming that “many” – a helpfully unspecific number – of people under deportation orders obeyed the courts and left of their own volition. The statement leaves open the possibility that at least a “few” simply ignored the deportation order, and are still here. How many? Well, we don’t know.

And what’s more, I’m fairly sure the state does not want us to know. In fact, I think they are happier not to know themselves. A problem you’re not officially aware of, after all, is, in the world of the civil service, simply a matter of speculation, and not something that needs to be imminently addressed.

And so that’s how we get stuff like this: The state congratulating itself that 1.4% (yes, really) of people facing deportation orders have been recorded as actually leaving the country in 2022. We’ll just assume that everyone else has gone as well.

But of course, we know that is not true.

What other system works like this? Imagine, if you will, that the state replaced the Garda Traffic Corps with a self-reporting system. You went over the speed limit in a built up area? Then you are expected to enforce the law on yourself, and volunteer to pay the fine and take the penalty points. How many would comply?

This is, in fact, a system designed to be ignored. The whole point of it is that it can, and will, be ignored.

Key to the case made against any deportation is time. The longer a person remains in the state, the harder it becomes to justify their removal. Say you were subject to a deportation order in 2012, and ignored it. You then met a spouse, and got married. You had children. You got a job in the local chipper, or as a delivery driver, or whatever the case may be. How can you then be deported, without depriving a family of their father or mother, and a wage earner?

The system, in other words, is practically issuing you with an invitation to defy it, and make it impossible to enforce the law against you.

This is not, by the way, simply unjust to those who obey the law and are here legally: It is also unjust to those facing a deportation order, who are encouraged – practically invited – to remain here in a state of legal limbo, with their children risking upheaval and turmoil in their lives at a later date.

All of this because the state cannot be bothered to enforce the law.

And then, we have the Bruno Binda DeSouzas of the world. The state had this fellow in their custody, as of last week. He is facing a deportation order. He is also a known paedophile. They had every legal right to deport him immediately, on the conclusion of his sentence. Instead, they let him walk back into the country.

After all, the state does not consider its job to enforce court orders against Mr. DeSouza. Which is odd, because when it comes to enforcing court orders, there’s a very different standard for, say, Enoch Burke.

Funny, that.

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