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Legal recognition to be granted for nearly 20,000 ‘undocumented’ in Ireland


Justice Minister Helen McEntee

Justice Minister Helen McEntee

Justice Minister Helen McEntee

IRELAND is to grant legal recognition, right to remain and a path to citizenship for nearly 20,000 ‘undocumented’ from abroad who are resident here.

Almost all are already in employment, serving the State and economy — with the Government anxious not to be accused of hypocrisy as it mounts a campaign for favourable treatment of the Irish undocumented in the United States.

“I firmly believe that we in Ireland must show the same generosity towards undocumented migrants living in our country as we ask other countries, particularly the United States, to show Irish people,” said Justice Minister Helen McEntee in announcing new moves today.

“There are thousands of people across the country who have created a life here but unfortunately still live in the legal shadows.

“They are active members of our communities: contributing to our society, enriching our culture and working in our economy.”

She published draft proposals that will grant formal status to the thousands of undocumented here in a new scheme — which she hopes to have in place by the end of the year.

The newly-recognised will:

  • Have a period of 4 years residence in the State without an immigration permission, or three years in the case of those with children;
  • Be granted an immigration permission that allows for unrestricted access to the labour market; and:
  • Have years of residence with that permission reckonable for the purposes of pursuing Irish citizenship by way of naturalisation.

The key planks of the scheme fully meet the requests of many campaigners — and will also in time guard against the exploitation of these workers, who are believed to number 17,000.

Recent research from Migrants Right Council of Ireland (MRCI) and Justice for the Undocumented (JFU) shows that over three-quarters of undocumented migrants surveyed have been living in Ireland for five years or more.

The same detailed survey and analysis reveals that 93 per cent are in employment.

Yet more than a quarter of these workers are receiving less than the minimum wage for their work and almost half are working beyond 40 hour weeks.

Joe O’Brien, Green Party TD and Minister of State, said:

“I’ve worked on the issues of undocumented people in Ireland for many years, initially when I worked in the NGO sector, so I am very happy that we are making progress in developing a regularisation scheme.

“These are people whose home is Ireland, who work in Ireland and who are raising families in Ireland. Crucially too so many have contributed as frontline and essential workers in our battle against Covid.

“The least we can do is to give them official status in the country.”

It is important that this scheme is broad, easy to understand and fair so that we don’t have very significant groups of people living in the shadows in Ireland, he added.

“By creating a broad and accessible pathway to status we will send a message to these 17,000 people that they are welcome here, that they are an important part of Irish society. Through facilitating a pathway to status we also reduce the opportunity for exploitation in employment and encourage migrants and their families to engage fully and freely with public services, and to feel safe and secure in their communities.”

Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children and Integration and Youth welcomed Minister McEntee’s move.

“I’m delighted to see progress being made on a scheme to regularise undocumented migrants. People who have built their lives here and enriched our communities shouldn’t have to live in fear, and should have the opportunity to play a full and active part in Irish life.

“Through the development of this scheme, the ending of Direct Provision, and the increased support for unaccompanied child refugees, this Government is taking a clear, compassionate approach to integration.”

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