Ireland to Allow Thousands of Illegal Migrants to Stay Permanently

Irish Prime minister Leo Varadkar (L) gives a joint press conference with Irish Foreign Af
JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images

The government of Ireland has announced an amnesty scheme that will allow thousands of illegal migrants to stay in the country permanently.

Helen McEntee, Ireland’s Minister for Justice and a member of the pro-European Union Fine Gael party, has announced plans to allow thousands of illegal migrants in Ireland to remain in the country as part of a new scheme beginning in January.

Migrants who have been residing illegally in Ireland for a period of four or more years, or three or more years in the case of those with children, will be given the opportunity to “regularise” their status.

According to the Irish government’s official website, successful applicants will even be entitled to go on to attain Irish citizenship, with every year they live in the country after regularisation counting towards any potential future application.

Applicants for the scheme will supposedly be required to meet certain standards regarding “good character and criminal record/behaviour” — but the government announcement admits that “having convictions for minor offences will not, of itself, result in disqualification”.

Those who are currently subject to deportation orders will also be eligible to stay in the country under the scheme, which will operate for six months, so long as they meet the stated requirements.

While the government has put the number of illegal immigrants in the country at around 17,000, Migrants Rights Centre Ireland, a state-funded NGO, has previously estimated the total to be much greater, already at somewhere between 20,000 and 26,000 as long ago as 2015.

Even at the more conservative estimate, the illegal migrant population is greater than that of many towns in Ireland, which has a total population of fewer than five million people.

Nevertheless, and despite the lack of clarity regarding the actual number of illegal migrants in Ireland, Gript Media has also reported that there will be no cap on the number of people who will be allowed to apply for regularisation.

Minister McEntee has lauded the proposed amnesty, saying that it will allow illegal migrants to “come out of the shadows”.

“I think we can all probably say that we know somebody in a very similar situation, be it living in America or elsewhere, and I believe it’s the right thing to do to regularise them,” the minister told the state-owned broadcaster RTÉ.

While the minister referred to the scheme as being “once-in-a-generation”, it is not the first time illegal migrants have been allowed to stay in Ireland.

During a 2018 court case, another unofficial scheme granting illegal migrants the ability to remain in Ireland came to light.

Allegedly referred to as the “the scheme that doesn’t exist” by some lawyers, the Irish Independent reported that it was being operated by Irish immigration authorities in response to a report which recommended that illegal migrants who have been in the country for five years and have no criminal record should be allowed stay in Ireland.

While this report also recommended that illegals who attempt to evade deportation should not be allowed to remain in the country, it was also alleged that some who had done so were nevertheless allowed to remain under the ad hoc scheme.

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