Ireland urged to regularise status of undocumented migrants

Minister says guaranteed bed, food and medical attention ‘not to be thrown away blindly’

David Stanton: “this arrangement is not something to be thrown away blindly without care for its replacement, particularly as we have a housing crisis”

Ireland should do what the Government wants the US to do and implement a process to regularise the status of undocumented migrants.

Sinn Féin spokesman on housing Eoin Ó Broin TD said Ministers and politicians had gone to the United States asking the president to find a system for regularising undocumented Irish migrants in the US.

He said there were 126,000 undocumented migrants in the Republic. “We need to practise what we preach” and “we should do here what we want the US to do – have a process to regularise their status.”

Mr Ó Broin was speaking during a debate in which the Opposition called for an end to the direct provision system in which the State, through private operators, provides accommodation, food, medical services and a small stipend to 4,500 asylum seekers. They are not allowed to work.

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The Dublin Mid-West TD said it cost an average of €31,000 to keep a family of two adults and two children in direct provision yet it was at least €10,000 cheaper for a family on jobseeker’s allowance and housing assistance payment. It would cost even less if people were allowed to work.

He said direct provision was an appalling abuse of human rights and a waste of millions of taxpayers’ money.

On the streets

However, Minister of State

David Stanton

said the offer of State-provided accommodation “is a guarantee that everyone who walks into the international protection office today will have a bed, food, a shower and medical care tonight. They will not be forced to spend the night on the streets or to seek emergency housing.”

The Minister said “this arrangement is not something to be thrown away blindly without care for its replacement, particularly as we have a housing crisis”.

“If the State was not providing this service where would these people have stayed? How would they have been provided with medical and health care? How would children have been linked in with preschool, primary and post-primary education?” He added that he had yet to hear anyone say what they would replace it with.

Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O’Loughlin said some 1,600 children who had grown up in the direct provision system “have endured overcrowded conditions, social exclusion and psychological damage associated with living in institutionalised accommodation. We, as a country, can do better.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times