There are currently between 20,000 and 26,000 undocumented men, women and children in Ireland. Many of these are in Ireland for the long-term, they work and have families. In thus doing so they make valuable contributions to the economy and the communities they live in. However, being undocumented means they live a ‘half-life’. Constantly living in fear of deportation, never being able to achieve their potentials and failing to access services such as health and education. Originally entering the country on perhaps a study visa and then failing to return to their home countries once the visa expired; these individuals have lived in Ireland for often between 5 and 10 years, and now have children of their own. So what happens to the children of undocumented migrants? Although they are able to access education, they live in the same fear as their parents. They are vulnerable, often from an ethnic minority background and live in the fear of authorities. Often not reporting racist attacks and domestic abuse for fear of becoming known to the authorities.
On 4 September 2018 the Republic of Ireland announced plans for a new ‘regularisation scheme’ to allow certain undocumented migrants the opportunity to become regularised. The Amnesty will be open to international students who came to Ireland between Jan 05 and Dec 10 and are now undocumented.
Eligibility for entry to Regularisation scheme is dependant on three essential criteria:
- Persons who have lived in Ireland for 4 years (3 years with children)
- Criminal bar – the scheme would exclude persons with serious criminal convictions
- Probationary period of 2 years would be entered
Applicants would need to pay a fee to join the scheme and expected income for Ireland is around £11.5m. Not only this, but once applicants are regularised it is expected that an annual income in excess of £7.5m would be generated through direct taxation.
How do the undocumented benefit from the Amnesty?
An opportunity to finally escape the constant fear and stress as well as the poverty and isolation of being undocumented. An opportunity to access essential services such as health and education. The liberating feeling of having the same rights as everyone else and being able to report crimes without fearing the authorities. Social integration into the communities they live in, as well as being able to have a known extended family. For the children of the undocumented, an opportunity for them to be able to reach their potentials; to be a legitimate citizen in Ireland.
Should Britain follow? In Ireland an estimated 12% of the population are foreign citizens. The equivalent is 10% in Britain. There have been over 40 regularisations in the EU in the last 10 years. They recognise that regularisation policies are necessary for managing migration.