By Lloyd Mudiwa.
Up to 93 per cent of Pakistani doctors in Ireland believe the Irish State takes a discriminatory approach towards the handling of their applications for naturalisation, with most experiencing significant processing delays, results of a poll show.
The Association of Pakistani Physicians and Surgeons of Ireland (APPSI), which was formed primarily to deal with the issue of the delays and which conducted the online survey, has since unsuccessfully sought a meeting with the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter through the IMO over the issue.
Dr Kashif Hussain of APPSI maintained that while the Department of Justice and Equality had recently belatedly started issuing some visas to the Association’s members, it had taken much longer than for doctors from other countries, and for Pakistani medics applying for naturalisation in other countries such as the UK.
The Department, however, responded: “Statistics are not compiled in such a way as to provide the information requested and, indeed, we do not maintain a record of the occupation/profession of applicants.”
Blaming delays on a work overload in the Department representing an increase of more than 50 per cent over the volume of applications received in 2010, a spokesperson told Irish Medical Times: “The delays referred to occur in a minority of cases and are not restricted to Pakistani nationals and/or to doctors and are a necessary requirement to maintain the integrity of the naturalisation process, as well as ensuring that the statutory requirements are met. That said, every effort is being made to minimise the length of time all applicants are required to wait for a decision.”
He, nevertheless, offered: “The Director General of INIS (the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service) is happy to facilitate a meeting of the nature sought. If necessary, this can be followed-up at a later date by a meeting with the Minister,” the spokesperson commented.
According to the poll results, the average waiting period was 37.8 months (maximum 59 months) — 87 per cent received no valid reason for the delay, and 93 per cent believed the attitude of the Department of Justice was discriminatory towards Pakistani doctors.