Regularising the position of up to 26,000 undocumented migrants would potentially generate €185m for the State over five years, according to a support agency.
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland said the establishment and administration of a scheme to bring the undocumented into the system would cost in the region of €3m.
In an address to the Oireachtas Justice Committee, the MRCI’s Justice for the Undocumented (JFU) campaign said the Government should do what it is calling for in relation to the undocumented Irish in the United States.
MRCI community work co-ordinator Helen Lowry said that to date successive governments “haven’t done a huge amount” to address the situation, pointing out that the JFU campaign was five years old.
She said their research estimated that between 20,000 and 26,000 people were undocumented in the country. She said the vast majority had entered legally. They were now either visa ‘over stayers’, migrants with unenforced deportation orders or children of undocumented migrants.
Ms Lowry said they estimated there were between 2,000 and 5,000 such children.
“MRCI is particularly concerned about the vulnerable situation the children of undocumented migrants, many of whom have gone to school here and face very uncertain futures,” she said.
She said undocumented migrants encountered “significant problems” in accessing basic and essential services.
She said these people fear the authorities, “in particular the gardaí”, and are reluctant to report crimes such as domestic violence, theft and racist incidents for fear of detection.
Research MRCI conducted among 540 undocumented migrants found that:
81% have been living in Ireland for five years or longer — a fifth over 10 years;
87% are working;
28% have children under 18.
Ms Lowry said the research painted a “very similar picture” to the undocumented Irish in the US.
“The people we work with have the same struggles, hopes and dreams as undocumented in the United States,” she said.
MRCI is calling for a regularisation scheme, under which people here for four years could apply, pay a fee and enter a two-year probationary period.
Ms Lowry said the scheme will bring in an annual income of €7.5m through direct taxation and that a once-off fee will generate €11.5m. Including other fees and PRSI contributions, the MRCI estimates the scheme will potentially generate €185m over five years.
Edel McGinley, MRCI director, said there was “resistance within the civil service” to such a system and that “a political will” was needed to drive it forward.
She said they were meeting Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald next Monday.
Jayson Montenegro has been working in Ireland for 11 years and is undocumented and has not been able to go back to the Philippines.
“When I first left, my youngest was five. He kept asking when I was coming back. He’s 17 now and has not stopped asking.”
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