Belfast Telegraph

Justice Minister urged to allow undocumented migrants effective amnesty

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is facing calls to grant an effective amnesty to undocumented migrants in Ireland.

The Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality called for a short-term window of opportunity for people illegally in the country to regularise their status.

And the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) warned that it is hypocritical for the Government to seek rights for 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US while denying similar opportunities to the 26,000 people in its own backyard.

Edel McGinley, director of the MRCI, said: "This is not something new, although it is broader. We have done this before."

The committee said Mr Flanagan should introduce a short-term scheme, with transparent criteria, for migrants to pay a fee and attempt to regularise their status.

The scheme would give them the right to work while they live in Ireland under a probation programme.

There are believed to be up to 26,000 people from around the world living in Ireland, the vast majority of whom are working and they are believed to have between 2,000 and 6,000 children.

The committee said the regularisation scheme should be run on a case-by-case basis.

Chairman Caoimhghin O Caolain TD said: "There are many potential benefits to such a scheme, allowing individuals, many of whom are already in employment and have a long-term connection to the state, to regularise their situation, pay taxes, and make a positive contribution to Irish society generally at a time when the country is returning to steady growth in employment opportunities."

Ms McGinley added: "Successive governments, and indeed the current Government and Taoiseach, they've all said we've to step up our efforts to advocate the rights of undocumented Irish in the US.

"It's hypocritical for years and years that we have been going and advocating for the rights of undocumented Irish in the US and doing nothing at home."

The MRCI also issued a short statement from a woman called Rebecca who is undocumented, has been in Ireland for 13 years and helped to found the Justice for the Undocumented.

She said: "The recommendation from the committee is clear and simple.

"The new Minister for Justice, Minister Charlie Flanagan, has an opportunity to show leadership by introducing a scheme that will transform my life and the lives of people we represent."

On wider issues of refugees and migrants, the committee also called for Direct Provision to be a short term measure.

It described the practice of housing asylum seekers for long periods in facilities around the country where they have no right to work and are given 19.10 euro a week and 9.60 euro for each child as "unacceptable".

The committee said it wanted to see a more humanitarian approach adopted towards the plight of Syrian and other refugees who have become Irish citizens but have left behind relatives in war zones.

It also said the Government's commitment to relocate 4,000 people here as part of the EU's emergency response to the migrant and refugee crisis is inadequate. It said the number should be significantly increased.

The committee urged the Government to do more on the issue of unaccompanied children.

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