A migrant rights campaign group has handed over a petition to the Department of Justice calling on the Minister to reduce “extortionate” Irish residence permit (IRP) card fees in the next budget.
Gathering on the steps of the Department of Justice on Wednesday morning, the group handed over the petition, which has received more than 14,000 signatures.
The Fair Fees campaign group is calling for a reduction from the current fee of €300 to “a level more in line with similar fees charged for other state registrations”, such as a passport (€75) or driving licence (€55).
Most people living in Ireland from outside the European Union must pay this fee every year, some more often. Last year, the government collected €58 million from people paying IRP card fees.
In total, in the past 10 years, the State has generated more than €300 million from IRP cards fees, while it has cost €21 million to produce and deliver the cards.
Lijie Shao, from China, has been paying the yearly fee for 10 years now, since she came to live in Ireland, at first to study, and since then to work.
“You can imagine how many times I’ve paid this fee. My husband joined me five years ago, so he’s paid all those times too. We’ve spent a fortune. It’s too much, it’s out of proportion,” she said.
“It puts an extra financial burden on migrant workers in Ireland. It’s definitely been an extra burden on me and my family, especially at a time when my husband wasn’t able to work and we still had to pay €600 every year to renew our cards,” she said.
The fee each year required the couple to “make sacrifices”.
“We simply couldn’t make money available for other things. I don’t think that’s fair for people who are calling Ireland home,” Ms Shao said.
Senthil Kumar Ramasamy, from India, has been in Ireland for 23 years and paid fees every year until 2012, when he got his passport.
Paying such a fee each year had “a huge impact” on him and his family, he said.
Neil Bruton, campaigns co-ordinator with Migrant Rights Centre Ireland said the fee was “wildly disproportionate”.
“We have compared it with similar card fees like driving licences and passports, with other countries’ fees and with the cost to issue the cards, and against all measures the €300 fee does not stand up,” he said.
“A reduction to a more reasonable amount would send a message that we value people who make Ireland their home.”