The Republic of Ireland’s ruling coalition government has approved a scheme that will allow thousands of illegal immigrants to remain in the country permanently.
The scheme, announced earlier this month by Helen McEntee, Ireland’s Minister for Justice and member of the liberal-conservative Fine Gael party, will grant thousands of illegal migrants official residence, give them access to the country’s labor market, and provide them with a pathway to citizenship, The Irish Times reports.
At the beginning of next year, migrants who’ve been residing illegally in Ireland for at least four years, or over three years in the case of those with children, will have the ability to apply for ‘regularisation.’
According to a government press release, successful applicants, along with their undocumented family members, will be given official residency status, access to the Irish labor market, and a pathway to citizenship. Those with deportation orders, those who’ve been in the asylum process for at least two years, and those who’ve overstayed expired student visas are all eligible to apply for regularisation.
McEntee described the scheme as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity that would provide “much-needed certainty and peace of mind to thousands of people who are already living here and making a valuable contribution to our society and the economy, many of whom may be very vulnerable due to their current immigration circumstances.”
The minister added that the scheme showed “the same goodwill and generosity” that Irish immigrants of the past had been shown around the globe.”
An applicant’s eligibility will be dependent on their ability to demonstrate that they do not pose a threat to the state, are of “good character,” and have a non-existent or insignificant criminal past.
Although the government has estimated that some 17,000 migrants are living in the country illegally, the government-backed NGO Migrant Rights Centre Ireland approximated the figure to be considerably higher—between 20,000 and 26,000 in 2015.
Despite not knowing how many migrants are staying in Ireland illegally, the government says it presently does not plan to place a cap on the number eligible for amnesty under the new scheme.
Robert Semonsen is a political journalist based in Central Europe. His work has been featured in various English-language news outlets in Europe and the Americas. He has an educational background in biological and medical science.