1. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to bring forward proposals for the regularisation of long-term undocumented migrants and their dependents which is intended to: “Create new pathways for long-term undocumented people and their dependents, meeting specified criteria to regularise their status within 18 months of the formation of the Government, bearing in mind EU and Common Travel Area commitments.” The Department of Justice is currently developing a Scheme to regularise undocumented migrants in Ireland, to be launched before end of 2021.
2. Last April, the Department published a Consultation Paper in which it invited stakeholders to provide their views on a number of questions relating to the intended Scheme. As a firm with over 15 years’ of experience in representing undocumented migrants in Ireland, Daly Lynch Crowe & Morris Solicitors LLP decided to engage with the Department and make the following submissions.
Question 1: The Scheme is for persons considered to be long-term undocumented persons living in Ireland for a minimum number of years. Do you have any views on how undocumented should be defined in the context of this Scheme and/or in relation to the residence requirements and how these should be verified?
3. We proposed that the definition of ‘undocumented person’ include also the following categories of persons:
a) Persons who have received a notification pursuant to section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) informing them that the Minister proposes to make a deportation order in respect of them;
b) Persons who have received a deportation order pursuant to section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended);
c) Persons who have received a notification pursuant to regulation 21 of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2015 indicating that the Minister proposes to make a removal order in respect of them;
d) Persons who have received a removal order pursuant to regulation 21 of the 2015 Regulations; and
e) Applicants for international protection (in the light of the “Catherine Day Report”).
4. We noted that to exclude any of the above persons from the regularisation scheme would be unfair and would not respond to any reasonable or logical basis.
5. We recommended that those who reach the residency requirement during the lifetime of the scheme be allowed to apply.
6. We recommended that it not be a requirement that the residency requirement be continuous.
7. We recommended that any time spent on an immigration status that was subsequently revoked be included as undocumented residence – for example, the revocation of an EU Residence Card.
Question 2: Do you have any views on the proposed eligibility criteria and what supporting documentation should be required?
8. We submitted that there should be a clear definition of criminality and good character & conduct requirements.
9. We proposed that persons who have not been presenting to the GNIB on foot of a deportation order should not have this fact taken against them.
10. We expressed the view that there should not be an automatic exclusion for undocumented persons who have been working illegally in the State. To exclude them would make the scheme unrealistic and ineffective.
11. We urged that the evidentiary burden be low. Some undocumented people often live their lives “underground” and some may have used false identities. Many undocumented people are in extremely vulnerable positions and may not have documentation to prove their length of time in the State. A flexible approach should be applied in this regard.
Question 3: It is proposed that the immigration permission to be awarded will allow unrestricted access to the labour market. Are there any points you wish to raise in relation to the permission to be granted?
12. We proposed that the permission granted should be a renewable Stamp 4. The initial grant should be for a period of two or three years, as the cost of obtaining another Certificate of Registration when renewing after, for example an initial six months, could be financially burdensome on applicants. We said that a straight-forward Stamp 4 grant would be most conducive to accessing the labour market, as this is widely recognisable by potential employers.
Question 4: How can we ensure that all those eligible to apply are aware of the Scheme? What would assist those eligible in making their application?
13. We submitted it would be helpful if the Department of Justice engaged in a media campaign, which should begin two or three months before the Scheme is due to be launched, to allow sufficient time for applicants to become aware of the Scheme and prepare for it. Targeted campaigns should run in the most widely spoken languages of the undocumented – Chinese, Portuguese, Tagalog, Mongolian, Urdu & Arabic – as indicated by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.
14. We proposed that the Department of Justice engage nationwide with Citizens Rights Information Centres & Social Welfare Offices to ensure that the message reaches as many eligible applicants as possible. There could also be engagement with Post Offices, General Practitioners, & places of worship.
Question 5: It is proposed to have an online application system. How can we make this process as simple and accessible for applicants?
15. We submitted that the online application should be in plain language, and user-friendly.
16. A User Guide should be produced with a step-by-step process similar to that which is made available by the Department of Employment in respect of work permit applications, so that applicants can prepare exactly what they need in advance of making the application online and can have all the necessary documents uploaded and information to hand.
Question 6: How will your organisation help to promote the scheme to eligible persons and support them to apply?
17. We confirmed we would be happy to advertise this scheme on our website & social media platforms, as well as reach out to clients who we believe are eligible to apply and will advise them of same.
Question 7: Are there any other points you wish to raise in relation to the proposed scheme?
18. We recommended that a non-punitive approach be taken against employers who have been employing undocumented persons.
19. We recommended that it be clearly set out what happens if an application is refused – we would welcome confirmation as to whether an applicant will be issued with a Section 3 letter if their application is unsuccessful.
DALY LYNCH CROWE & MORRIS SOLICITORS LLP
17 May 2021