Submission to the Department of Justice | Regularisation of Undocumented People in Ireland | 17th May 2021
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) welcomes plan to regularise undocumented people in Ireland. Noting that a survey amongst undocumented people showed that 9 in every 10 undocumented people are working, 1 and in solidarity with Justice for the Undocumented (JFU) who have campaigned for regularisation of undocumented people, MASI submits the following comments for the Minister to consider in crafting a regularisation scheme:
- The scheme is for persons considered to be long-term undocumented persons living in Ireland for a minimum number of years. Do you have any views on how undocumented should be defined in the context of this Scheme and/or in relation to the residence requirements and how these should be verified?
In May 2020, MASI encouraged members of the public to email their elected representatives in the national legislature to call for the government to, amongst other things, recognise the contribution of migrant workers in the State and regularise undocumented people. Since the proposed regularisation scheme is a once-off, it is important that no one is left behind. Leaving anyone behind will simply create another group of long-term undocumented people. For instance, a person who has been undocumented for three years and five months without a child would, by the proposed scheme’s definition of ‘long-term’ undocumented, be long term undocumented by the time the scheme is closed for applications. The thousands of members of the public who contacted their TDs last year urging the government to regularise undocumented people did so with a view that the scheme would be inclusive. The relevant email text read:
“Recognising the contribution of migrants in essential services, the Department of Justice and Equality can, should, and must regularise undocumented people and offer long term residency to all non-EU/EEA nationals in the State during this pandemic irrespective of current immigration status. This has caused great uncertainty for people as no one knows when air travel will return to some normality.” 2
To that end, MASI urges the Minister to:
- Define undocumented people in a way that is inclusive of all non-EU/EEA nationals in the section 3 process and all those with pending deportation orders.
- Include people in the International Protection process, 3 and other non-EU/EEA nationals seeking permission to stay in the country in alternative processes
2. Do you have any views on the proposed eligibility criteria and what supporting documentation should be required?
With the need to be inclusive, the proposal to draw a distinction amongst undocumented people with children (3 years of residence) and those without children (4 years residence) is undesirable. At minimum, there must be parity in how the State confers benefits amongst a group of people who are already on the margins of Irish society. To achieve this, MASI proposes that:
- The period of residence required be eliminated altogether and the Minister invites non-EU/EEA nationals who are in the State without permission from the Minister to apply for regularisation. That would simplify the process and create an inclusive scheme.
- If the Minister is not persuaded to eliminate the period of residence required to qualify for the scheme, MASI proposes that for the purpose of the scheme, like in other regularisation schemes that have been implemented in the State, emphasis be placed on the date of arrival rather than how long a person has been undocumented. That would include periods where the person had permission to stay in the country.
- At minimum, all non-EU/EEA nationals who were in the State on the 31st December 2019, or 2 years prior to the launch of the scheme, or prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, without permission from the Minister, must be invited to apply for regularisation. That would capture a large cohort of undocumented people.
- Those who reach the period of residence during the lifetime of the scheme must be allowed to apply.
- The Minister has regard for the situation of Stateless people in crafting the criteria for eligibility.
- The Minister does not impose an application fee for the scheme and waives the registration fee for all frontline workers.
- Generally, supporting documents to prove residence can be a copy of passport which would have been stamped on entry for most people (even if expired), or transactions performed in the State with a private or public body; for people with children, any communication from the school, and character reference letters from friends in the state, community groups, religious groups, and the like. A pragmatic approach should prevail here to assist people regularise their status bearing in mind that undocumented people are generally reluctant to interact with public bodies. Thus, requiring only government issued communication/documents will be exclusionary.
- All persons financially dependent on the principal applicant for their survival be included in the definition of ‘dependent’ irrespective of age.
- Assurances that those refused regularisation will not be pursued for deportation using data that will be submitted to authorities when seeking regularisation.
3. It is proposed that the immigration permission to be awarded will allow unrestricted access to the labour market.
Are there any points you wish you raise in relation to the permission to be granted? The permission to be issued must be pegged to existing permissions issued by the Department of Justice to non-EU/EEA nationals as per previous regularisation schemes. The last regularisation scheme for instance granted Stamp4S. Attaching it to existing Stamp 4 had the benefit of a well-known immigration stamp in the labour market. We would thus propose that the permission be issued in the form of either Stamp 4RU or Stamp 1RU (RU = Regularisation of the Undocumented) with right to work confirmed on the Irish Residency Permit card. It is also important that the permission is valid for long-term work. The initial permit must be valid for a minimum of 3-5 years renewable.
4. How can we ensure that all those eligible to apply are aware of the Scheme? What would assist those eligible in making their applications?
It is vital that the information is circulated in simple English and foreign languages. Partnering with civil society groups in administering the scheme would go a long way in ensuring that people who are affected are well informed. There are many migrant groups for instance that are made up of diaspora communities who could assist in circulating information. And many of them do not ordinarily engage in the policy process but exist for the purpose of forming a support network. It is also important in building trust that undocumented people are not just interacting with the State.
5. It is proposed to have an online application system. How can we make this process as simple and accessible for applicants?
By making the application as short as possible while capturing all the essential details. It should ideally be mobile phone friendly. With Covid-19 restrictions and the need to limit contact, there must be a dedicated email and phone line for queries.
6. How will your organisation help to promote the scheme to eligible persons and support them to apply?
MASI has a wide network on WhatsApp and Telegram that allows us to share information. We also have allies who are fluent in many of the languages that are widely spoken amongst diaspora communities such as Georgian, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, and the like. They help when we have information sessions.
7. Are there any other points you wish to raise in relation to the proposed scheme?
It is important that the scheme is broad and inclusive as far as possible because whoever is left out of it will remain here and undocumented. The situation of Irish born children who do not have a pathway to citizenship deserves special attention in designing a regularisation scheme that is inclusive. And so does the situation of migrant sex workers who are often left out of policy processes. The mere talk of a regularisation scheme has given undocumented people hope. Hope that tomorrow will be better. The Minister has an opportunity to deliver a better tomorrow for all undocumented people in Ireland.
1 ‘‘Live Here, Work Here, Belong Here’ Survey Findings’ (Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and Justice for the Undocumented, 14 October 2020)
2 The text in the email campaign which was sent to TDs by over 20 000 members of the public included recommendations from a MASI submission which can be accessed here https://www.masi.ie/wpcontent/uploads/2020/06/RESPONSE-TO-COVID-19-IN-DIRECT-PROVISION-FINAL.pdf
3 Historically, the Department of Justice and Equality has held the view that asylum seekers are not legally resident. This was strongly argued by the department when the Habitual Residence Condition was introduced.