Regular status for migrants sought

Mon, Dec 19, 2011, 00:00

MORE THAN 200 people marched to the Dáil on Saturday in support of measures to regularise the situation of undocumented migrants in Ireland.

This should be done through an “earned regularisation scheme”, said Edel McGinley of the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland and co-ordinator of the campaign.

There are an estimated 30,000 undocumented migrants in Ireland, including families and children, she said.

The migrant rights centre has been working with them since 2001, and provided support and information to 1,250 undocumented migrants in the two-year period up to July 2011. According to its data, 75 nationalities were represented among these. Threequarters of those involved were aged over 30, and 87 per cent had been living in Ireland for four or more years.

Almost two-thirds were living with a spouse, while 58 per cent had children under 18. Half of these children were born in Ireland.

The majority are engaged in some form of employment, according to Ms McGinley, typically in informal job sectors such as cleaning and restaurants, and often on very meagre wages.

Due to their undocumented status they are very vulnerable to exploitation and mistreatment. They also encounter problems in accessing services such as education and health. They fear the authorities, especially the Garda, and are reluctant to report crimes such as domestic violence, theft and racist incidents.

“It is critical that Ireland address the situation of the undocumented by providing a fair and responsible solution that recognises and balances the issues and concerns of undocumented migrants and the State,” she said. “We believe this can be best achieved by introducing an earned regularisation scheme.”

She stressed that this would not be an amnesty: “Upon registering for the scheme and paying a fine, eligible applicants would be granted a temporary residency status.

“Then individuals would work their way to earning permanent residency status by meeting specific criteria such as working, paying taxes and contributing to the community, over a limited time period.

“It is a pragmatic solution which considers both the rights and responsibilities of undocumented migrants and of the Irish State. International migration experts consider earned regularisation as the most effective model to respond to the undocumented situation,” she said.

She claimed such a system would have many advantages for the State as well as the migrants themselves, in that it would generate an estimated €75-100 million annually in additional tax revenue from undocumented workers and their employers, while improving overall public security, law enforcement and compliance.

Ms McGinley said it would add credibility to efforts by the Irish Government for a solution to the situation faced by undocumented Irish citizens living in the United States.

She said the kind of scheme her centre is advocating is one being sought for Irish citizens in that country by politicians of all parties.Introducing such a scheme in Ireland would strengthen the case being made in the US for Irish people.

Such a scheme has already won the unanimous support of Dublin City Council, which has informed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter of its views, and the Migrant Rights Centre is seeking the support of politicians to regularise the situation of those who are at present living in the shadows.

Tale of the undocumented: Eight christmases away from home

JAYSON MONTENEGRO from the Philippines has been in living in Ireland for the past eight years. He came to earn money to support his family, whom he left behind. When he left the Philippines his three children were aged 11, 10 and five.

Arriving in Ireland at the height of the Celtic Tiger he found work as a cleaner and in building maintenance. “At first it was hard to earn money, but then as I got to know people and began to get the minimum wage, it was easier for me,” he said.

“After a few years I was earning enough money to send home, although I had to work many hours to earn this. The employers at this time said they tried to get a work permit for me. I am not sure if they applied or not.” However, no permit ever came through.

“I’m here to support my family, but my undocumented situation means that it is very difficult for me to fully enjoy life. Every day of my life I think about my family. Being here without my family is really hard and upsets me, but I have no choice because I need to support them financially and give them a good education. I am caught between two places”.

“My children are now aged 19, 18 and 14 years old. I have missed their childhoods and them growing up. This is a massive loss to me and I can’t get back these years. My children want me all the time to come back but do not realise that, if I come back, I cannot support them. I want to see them have a good future and not be in the same situation as me.

“Christmas time is very hard for me, as it’s a sacred occasion in the Philippines and we bond as a family and we celebrate the Christmas together in our home. I have missed this for the past eight years and this is very painful for me, especially when I see and hear families together.”

Jayson is currently in part-time employment.