Red tape hampers immigrants’ citizenship uptake

Denise Charlton: Impact on   the economy.

Ireland has one of Europe’s lowest rates of granting citizenship to immigrants due to the convoluted process which applicants must go through, research has found.

The study by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, which will be published today, shows 13% of immigrants here have become citizens compared to an average of 34% in all countries researched. Only Luxembourg has a lower rate than Ireland.

The Immigrant Council said several barriers to citizenship have been identified. Its senior solicitor, Hilkka Becker, said: “This research, which we undertook with the Migration Policy Group in Brussels, shows that despite recent improvements the path to citizenship remains difficult and beyond reach for many people.

“We found that, despite a citizenship regime which is more inclusive in theory than those in other EU states, there are difficulties which have contributed significantly to the low rates of citizenship.”

She said the absolute discretion given to the minister for justice to decide who is conferred with citizenship had created a lack of transparency and clarity, with people forced to negotiate a system which, she said, lacks clear guidelines.

“In addition, the concept of ‘earned citizenship’, whereby people are naturalised upon meeting certain conditions or waivers for people in certain categories, does not exist in Ireland, unlike many other European countries,” she said.

“Coupled with this vagueness, our system is one of the most demanding in terms of supporting documentation, with applicants forced to produce identity cards, residence permits, income records, as well as officially translated and certified birth certificates and passports.”

Ms Becker said that, despite a commitment in 2011 to cut waiting time for applicants to six months, there was still no formal legal time limits and many going through the process continued to endure long waits.

The report also pointed to the fact that migrants who have been refused citizenship do not have access to a formal appeal system to challenge the decision and to date the policy of the minister had been not to provide reasons for the refusal of applications.

Denise Charlton, ICI chief executive, said Ireland’s low rate of citizenship had implications in terms of integration and the economy. “Those who are succeed in being naturalised are more often employed, less often overqualified for their jobs, have better housing conditions and have less difficulty paying household expenses,” she said.

“This report highlights that despite the positive media coverage and feel good factor of the citizenship ceremonies, which the Immigrant Council campaigned to have introduced, we still have work to do in this area.”


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