The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) which is hosting the conference has proposed, what it says, is a “straightforward and pragmatic regularisation scheme” as a solution to the problem. It said that would provide a pathway to papers for people without a formal immigration status who fulfil certain defined criteria.
MRCI estimates there are between 20-26,000 undocumented people living in Ireland, of which between 2,000 and 6,000 are children.
In preparation for today’s conference, which will hear from experts from the London School of Economics, ISME, and the Children’s Rights Alliance, MRCI has carried out a survey of more than 1,000 undocumented people living and working here. They found that:
- 84% have lived in Ireland for over five years;
- 21% have lived in Ireland for over 10 years;
- 89% are working;
- 31% have been in the same job for over five years;
- 52% are female.
It also found that failure to regularise the undocumented costs the State €41m per year in lost direct tax alone and estimated that a regularisation scheme would generate 12 times what it would cost to implement.
Helen Lowry, MRCI spokeswoman, said: “This issue is not going to go away. Regularisation is supported by business groups, by children’s organisations, by trade unions, and by the public — a poll last year showed that 69% support the idea of a regularisation.
“All that’s needed now is decisive action by the new government; there is cross-party support for regularisation, and it must be prioritised in the work of the new Dáil.”
Isme chief executive Mark Fielding said the vast majority of undocumented migrants here were working, many for small businesses.
“At the moment, there is essentially no way for either employer or employee to regularise the status of the worker. Employers are undoubtedly impacted by the challenge of retaining skilled and experienced staff and remaining fully compliant with immigration. Isme fully supports a regularisation for undocumented migrants in Ireland.”
Paul Gilligan, chief executive of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, said: “There are children and young people growing up undocumented in Ireland; unable to travel, unable to be open with even their closest friends, barred from progressing to work or college, struggling to see a future for themselves in the only home they’ve ever known.
“The impact of this state of limbo on their mental health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated.
“A regularisation would give them hope and allow them to live full lives.”