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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Immigrants citizenship rate 'low'

Published 29/07/2013 | 00:28

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Only 13 per cent of immigrants in Ireland have become citizens, according to research

Rates of immigrants who become Irish citizens are among the lowest in Europe, new research has revealed.

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Bureaucracy, vagueness within the system and a lack of clear guidelines are among reasons cited by the Immigrant Council of Ireland for the poor citizenship take-up in the country.

Chief executive of the council Denise Charlton warned the low rate would have implications on integration and the economy, adding: "Those who succeed in being naturalised are more often employed, less often overqualified for their jobs, have better housing conditions and have less difficulty paying household expenses.

"This report highlights that despite the positive media coverage and feelgood factor of the citizenship ceremonies, which the Immigrant Council campaigned to have introduced, we still have work to do in this area."

Only 13% of immigrants in Ireland have become citizens. This compares with an average of 34% in all the countries studied. The research, which was overseen by the Migration Policy Group based in Brussels, examined citizenship rates in 15 European Union member states. It found that only Luxembourg has a lower rate than Ireland.

Senior Solicitor with the Immigrant Council Hilkka Becker said several barriers have been identified that make Irish citizenship difficult and beyond reach for many.

"We found that despite a citizenship regime which is more inclusive in theory than those in other EU states, there are difficulties which have contributed significantly to the low rates of citizenship," Ms Becker said. "The absolute discretion of the Minister for Justice and Equality in deciding who is conferred with citizenship has created a lack of transparency and clarity with people forced to negotiate a system which lacks clear guidelines."

She said the concept of earned citizenship, in which people are naturalised upon meeting certain conditions, does not exist in Ireland - unlike many other European countries, adding: "Coupled with this vagueness, our system is one of the most demanding in terms of supporting documentation, with applicants forced to produce identity cards, residence permits, income records as well as officially translated and certified birth certificates and passports.

"Despite a commitment in 2011 to cut waiting time for applicants to six months, there is still no formal legal time limit and many going through the process continue to endure long waiting periods."

More than 4,000 people were declared Irish citizens following a series of ceremonies earlier this month. Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore gave an address during one of the events at the Convention Centre in Dublin, where he described the granting of citizenship as a momentous occasion for those involved.

Press Association

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