Seminar on “The Free Movement of Workers in Ireland” (November 2010)

Back in November, our immigration team attended a Seminar on ‘The Free Movement of Workers in Ireland’ which had a full programme of interesting speakers. Our solicitors picked up on some interesting issues that were discussed in the weekly update at the beginning of November.
This interesting Seminar was hosted by the Irish Representative on the European Network on Free Movement within the EU. It was an opportunity for lawyers and other professionals working within the EU Treaty Rights framework to discuss the current position of EU Treaty Rights law in this State in light of recent developments regarding European Court of Justice judgements and also issues raised by the pending Immigration Residence and Protection 2010 Bill. By coincidence, the seminar was being held at the same time as the Minister of Justice re opened deliberations on the details of the 2010 Bill at the Committee Stage.
Speakers at the seminar included Professor Kay Hailbruibber of the University of Konstanz, Germany, Catherine Cosgrave and Hilkka Becker, senior solicitors of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Jonathon Tompkin, Director of the Irish Centre of European Law and a number of other notable speakers from the North/South Ministerial Council, FLAC and the Medical Council of Ireland.
The reoccurring point of the seminar was ironically that the major development in the area of law known as “Free Movement of Persons” is that it is shifting away from a requirement for movement. In other words, the case law of the European Court of Justice appears to be moving towards the concept of the EU Treaty rights derive from Union Citizenship itself, rather than from citizens of the Union moving from one member state to another as has traditionally been the case. That movement between states may not be necessary to incur all the rights and entitlements of union citizenship is a very progressive step forward, with huge potential consequences across the EU. For example, all Irish citizen children would be entitled to have their non EU citizen parents reside with them in the State, and so many of the previously deported parents may be entitled to be granted visas to return to the State. In fact, much of our domestic law in respect of Irish citizens rights to family reunification would be called in legal doubt.  We have already highlighted the European Court of Justice case of Gerardo Ruiz Zambrano v Office National de L’Emploi where the advocate general’s opinion confirms this new approach. 
Other issues raised at the seminar was the on going frustrations experienced by all practitioners in respect of the Department of Justice inconsistent decision making, lack of transparency and disregard for general procedural safeguards. The example of the previous policy to prohibit all applicants from working during the EU Treaty Rights Application process was cited, and the subsequent High Court proceedings taken by this office in the case of Decsi v Minister for Justice.
Further matters discussed were access of union citizens and their family members to social welfare benefits from outside of their own state, the habitual residency conditions applied which may prohibit the free movement of citizens, and the particularly complicated situation of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals. Discussions also centred around the proposals in the Immigration Residence and Protection 2010 Bill to define and criminalize marriages of convenience providing for a potential five year sentence on conviction.
Overall, the general consensus at the seminar was that the area of law know as “Free Movement of Persons ” and the EU Treaty Rights which derive therefrom is progressing at a very fast pace by way of European Court of Justice judgements. Meanwhile, at a domestic level, resistance to such changes and general administrative processes at odds with the European law is causing severe infringements of the fundamental rights of countless Union citizens and their family members.
The seminar raised many issues very relevant to a lot of our clients’ cases and our immigration team will follow the upcoming European Court of Justice judgements with much interest. We will keep you updated of the big ones!
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