The 2022 Irish regularisation programme: the long fight of undocumented people

© Blue Hue Photography (Source: Migrants Rights Centre Ireland)

This blog is based on information kindly provided by our member Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, one of the key civil society organisations advocating for the Irish regularisation programme.

At the end of January, the Irish government launched a new regularisation programme that is expected to secure residence status for thousands of undocumented people living in the country.

According to the programme, which will run for six months, residence permits may be granted to people having lived at least four years in Ireland without a residence permit, or at least three years if they have children up to 18 years old. People with pending residence applications and deportation orders can apply. Spouses, children over 18 and de facto partners can be included with the main applicant if they have two years undocumented residence and can prove the relationship. People who have been in the asylum process for at least two years have a separate track to apply.

Those who are granted a permit will have unlimited access to the labour market, without the need of a separate work permit.

This regularisation programme is a significant step forward in the recognition and protection of thousands (some estimates say between 15,000 and 17,000) of undocumented people in Ireland. Its adoption is seen as a historic win for undocumented people after eleven years of campaigning and will change thousands of people’s lives for the better.

The largest movement of undocumented people in Ireland, Justice for the Undocumented (JFU), counts over 2,500 members. Over the years, many of them bravely came forward and showed their faces in marches, vigils, banner drops, selfies, press conferences and even parliamentary debates calling for better treatment and routes to settlement. Justice For Undocumented (JFU) group with the support of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and other civil society organisations, were also a driving force behind two previous, more limited, regularisation programmes.

This time, JFU managed to secure political support for a scheme thanks to intensive campaigning in the lead up to the Irish national elections in 2020, including securing vital support from business leaders,  trade unions and wider civil society.  JFU and MRCI’s pioneering research into the realities of undocumented people living in Ireland helped show how much undocumented people are part of Irish society. The campaigning and broad political support culminated in the regularisation programme being included in the government coalition agreement (Programme for Government)  between centre-right and green parties championed by Minister of Justice Helen McEntee TD.

The programme is not without shortcomings, starting with the fact that only irregular residence counts towards the residence criterion, which will leave out those who have had a temporary residence permit in recent years. However, Ireland’s adoption of the scheme is a clear signal towards undocumented people and other EU Member States that truly inclusive policies are possible.

*If you are undocumented and living in Ireland, and you wish to apply for a residence permit, we strongly recommend that you please get in touch with Migrant Rights Centre Ireland first, as they continue to clarify criteria and can provide you with accurate information.