UP TO 30,000 foreign nationals living in Ireland are undocumented, new research shows.
The findings indicate as many as a third of these may have been living here for a decade or more.
Similar to the Irish undocumented in the US, most are caught in a limbo situation where they are afraid to return home for family occasions and funerals in case they are not allowed back into Ireland.
The research, conducted by the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI), provides the first proper snapshot of the undocumented community in Ireland.
The MRCI has been pushing the Coalition to provide a pathway which would allow the undocumented to regularise their immigration status -- similar to what successive Irish governments have been lobbying for in the US.
However, Justice Minister Alan Shatter is not in favour of such a scheme and said it is incumbent on non-EU nationals to ensure that they have permission to live here.
The MRCI findings were drawn from a number of sources, including data supplied by the Department of Justice and the EU, as well as its own research. It estimates that the number of undocumented currently living in Ireland is between 26,000 and 30,000.
In the past four years the centre has had contacts with over 2,100 undocumented people living here.
This diverse group contains 87 different nationalities, with the most common being Filipino (16.3pc); Chinese (13.5pc); Mauritian (8.5pc); Pakistani (7.7pc); Ukrainian (5.9pc); and Brazilian (5.4pc).
Four-fifths of these were found to be over the age of 30. And almost three-quarters were working. Despite not legally being allowed to live here, many have been able to obtain PPS numbers and pay income tax.
"Most are engaged in some form of employment in the State, typically in more informal job sectors such as restaurants and domestic work, and are living on very meagre incomes," the researchers found.
"Many have been with the same employer for several years and, interestingly, many pay income tax and PRSI through their employment."
Researchers found many undocumented obtained PPS numbers after arriving in Ireland on foreign student schemes which also allowed them to work and can last for up to seven years.
However, when the scheme ended they remained here and continued working, despite not being legally entitled to so.
The most common jobs worked by the undocumented included positions in the restaurant and catering industry (16.3pc); domestic work (7.2pc); cleaning and maintenance (4.1pc); shopping and retail (4pc); and manufacturing (3.2pc).
Smaller numbers also worked in construction, as hotel staff, as carers, in agriculture and in the security industry.
The MRCI accused the Government of hypocrisy for calling for the US to help the Irish undocumented while offering no hope to undocumented people in Ireland. It is holding a protest outside the Dail on the issue today.