Vigil at Leinster House calls for rights for undocumented migrants

Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland has tabled a proposal with the Department of Justice and Equality

Children Zheng (8 months) and Jing (2 1/2) from Donegal, with family members attending the 24-hour vigil outside Leinster House. Photograph: Eric Luke

Children Zheng (8 months) and Jing (2 1/2) from Donegal, with family members attending the 24-hour vigil outside Leinster House. Photograph: Eric Luke

Wed, Dec 11, 2013, 21:04

A crowd of 150 people gathered outside the gates of Leinster House last night to take part in a rally seeking rights for undocumented migrants.

A number of migrants told the crowd emotional stories about being away from home and family for long stretches for fear of being refused re-entry into the State. Others sang songs and played music.

The rally was part of a 24-hour vigil organised by the Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) calling for a change to immigration laws. It will end at 9am today.

MRCI deputy director Edel McGinley said she wanted to highlight the “hypocrisy” of successive Irish governments campaigning for the rights of the undocumented Irish in the US while individuals in this jurisdiction faced a similar plight.

“The reason we’re here at Christmas time is because people are separated from their families and children – very similar to the Irish undocumented in America,” she said.

Ms McGinley estimated there were between 26,000 and 30,000 undocumented migrants in the State, who would yield an additional €75 million per annum for the exchequer if brought into the tax bracket.

She said the MRCI had tabled a proposal with Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter calling for a system of “earned regularisation” for undocumented migrants.

She said the proposal had been with his office for almost two years.

“We’ve a very practical solution that sets out clear and transparent criteria for people to come forward and have their cases adjudicated on,” she said.

“You need to be in employment and paying taxes. You’re given a points system which allows you to earn your way to permanent residency.”