Once-off regularisation scheme will give long-term undocumented persons without a current permission to remain in Ireland the chance to regularise their status and means they will not have to fear every knock at the door.
The announcement from Justice Minister Helen McEntee of a “once-in-a-generation scheme” on 3 December 2021 was welcomed in all quarters. This once-off scheme would give long-term undocumented persons without a current permission to remain in Ireland the chance to regularise their status, access the labour market and begin their path to citizenship.
It would mean people who worked as carers, on building sites, in childcare — some of whom have lived in Ireland for many years — would get the chance to do some of the basic things many take for granted. They’d be able to work and get paid at least the minimum wage, get a driving licence, be permitted to visit home and return to Ireland.
To meet the criteria, they must have lived in the State without immigration permission for four years. Or three years in the case of those with children on the date the scheme opens for applications later this month.
And it isn’t just the undocumented who can access the scheme. Individuals with an outstanding application for international protection who have been in the asylum process for a minimum of two years can also apply. This means that the scheme is also available to people living in direct provision for two years or more.
Minister McEntee stated “Given that those who will benefit from this scheme currently live in the shadows, it is difficult to say how many will be eligible, but we are opening this scheme for six months from January to allow people come forward and regularise their status. It will bring some much-needed certainty and peace of mind to thousands of people who are already living here and making a valuable contribution to our society and the economy, many of whom may be very vulnerable due to their current immigration circumstances.”
The scheme was warmly welcomed by NGOs working in this sector. Nasc CEO Fiona Finn said the announcement would bring “equal measures of joy and relief to individuals and families across Ireland who have been living in the shadows for years”. Ms Finn said the scheme would have “a transformative impact” on the lives of undocumented families who will be “finally be able to take their full place in society”.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland said it would be “profoundly transformative” for thousands of migrants.
As many as 15,000-17,000 undocumented migrants could be living in Ireland according to some estimates, including 3,000 children, and that many could be in employment which is likely low paid. Undocumented persons aren’t entitled to the minimum wage, can’t avail of most social welfare payments and cannot leave the country as they may not be permitted to return.
Over nine in 10 (93%) were in employment to support themselves; 27% worked providing care to older people in private home settings; 10% worked in childcare; while 5% worked in construction.
If they are granted immigration permission under the new scheme, it will give them unrestricted access to the labour market and have those years they’ve already been here reckonable for the purposes of pursuing Irish citizenship.