Shamim Malekmian, Hot Press, February 22, 2021
Thousands of undocumented migrants, currently resident in Ireland, can apply for regularisation by the end of the year, as part of the Department of Justice’s roadmap for 2021.
Launching her department’s new Justice Plan 2021 today, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD said that she was pleased to announce a new pathway to regularisation for paperless migrants in the State.
“I’m glad to announce today that we will begin to accept applications for a regularisation scheme for thousands of undocumented migrants by the end of this year in the justice sector,” the Minister said.
The announcement has been welcomed by migration advocacy groups, with Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) saying that their hope was that the new scheme would be “broad [and] inclusive.”
The new promise is in line with the commitment – expressed in the Programme for Government – to create “new pathways for long-term undocumented people and their dependents.”
However, the basis on which regularisation might occur remains uncertain.
In August 2020, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that it was still not considering “mass regularisation” – but added that the Minister was urging undocumented people to “contact her department or their local immigration office to take all appropriate steps to regularise their own and their family’s status.”
In 2018, only 358 paperless applicants became regularised, while 809 were served with deportation orders – an imbalance that would hardly encourage paperless migrants to come forward. The deportation rate for such applicants was higher again in 2019, when 1,245 undocumented migrants who had applied for regularisation received a deportation order instead, compared to a mere 245 migrants who were regularised, according to data released by the Department of Justice.
Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) says that various factors should be taken into account when examining cases of undocumented migrants. The criteria range from age, duration of stay, employment status and family circumstances to “humanitarian considerations.”
CRIMINAL JUSTIC OVERHAUL
A digital reform for the justice sector was also among Minister McEntee’s announcements today, which will be aimed at reducing unnecessary paperwork and saving both time and money for the public and the Department.
The Minister said that the Covid-19 pandemic, which required a shift to remote service, had provided a good opportunity to test out the digital reform agenda of the Department.
“We have seen for Covid-19 how our justice sector has evolved and developed and embraced the digital sector,” she said.
The Minister emphasised the impact her digital reform agenda would have on tackling climate change, adding that the Department wanted “to lead by example.”
The Justice Plan 2021 also promises a different regime to deal with perpetrators of abuse and makes a commitment to providing tangible support within the criminal justice system for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
“I firmly believe,” Minister McEntee said, “that in future generations, in years to come, we will look back on the scourge of domestic and sexual violence and we will ask ourselves how we tolerated it for so long.
“That period is over. This plan will mean that victims will be supported by the criminal justice system – and that their abusers will be punished.”