Do the existing regularisation schemes work well or not?
For a regularisation scheme to work effectively, quickly, humanely and be fair, it must have the below characteristics. This applies to both temporary programmes and structural mechanisms.
1 – Undocumented people themselves should be able to apply, and the permit itself should not depend on others, like a spouse, parent or employer. This will reduce dependency on employers and risks of exploitative or violent relationships.
2 – Civil society, including migrants’ associations, are crucial partners for the successful implementation of any scheme. They should be involved from the design to the implementation and evaluation of the scheme.
3 – Decisions should be based on clear, objective criteria. Reasons for refusal should be documented and argued.
- Wholly discretionary procedures create confusion and may give false hope or, conversely, deter people from applying, because it is not clear who could benefit. They also tend to be applied differently depending on the political inclination of the government in power.
- A number of years of residence should be sufficient grounds for regularisation. When deciding how long that should be, governments should consider a shorter period for children, families with children and those who have grown up in the country.
- Other complementary criteria should be developed in consultation with local civil society to meet local realities and needs.
4 – Decisions should be made in an independent and impartial way and be informed by experts relevant to the criteria to be assessed.
- For instance, doctors with the relevant specialisation should be involved in decisions on regularisation claims based on medical grounds, while country of origin experts should be involved in the assessment whether the person runs the risk of human rights violations in the country of return (cf. grounds for stay based on non-returnability because of a risk of refoulement).
5 – The procedure needs to be accessible in practice. That means that a good procedure is not bureaucratic, burdensome or expensive.
- It should be feasible and reasonable for undocumented people to produce the proof that the government requires. Given that undocumented people try to limit their exposure to government instances for fear of deportation, governments should also be flexible when defining what constitutes proof, especially of stay or work. For instance, a previous employment relationship could be demonstrated through a combination of messages, photos, testimonies, and knowledge, when formal proof like a written contract or social security payments are not available.
- Governments routinely require a fee to be paid by the applicant or the employer upon application. However, most undocumented people experience poverty, and fees – especially high fees – make them vulnerable to predatory lenders and exploitative employers. Fees should be minimal and affordable for someone with income below the minimum wage. Fee waivers should also be in place; Belgium, for instance, waives the application fee for children.
6 – Several procedural safeguards should be in place, including free legal aid and information on the criteria and process should be provided throughout; the procedure should include the possibility to appeal; and adults and children should be heard (or have the possibility to be heard).
7 – Undocumented people usually have very restricted access to services because of their status. They may also fear that their irregular immigration status could be transmitted by service providers or the justice system to immigration authorities if they try to access services or justice. A temporary status that grants access to services, justice and the labour market should be provided during the application process to prevent and alleviate suffering and promote inclusion.
8 – The resulting residence permit should be secure and long-term, and count towards citizenship. It should not depend on anyone else, like a spouse, parent or employer.
9 – Regularisation programmes should be flanked by permanent mechanisms and accompanied by measures to support the applicants and address the causes for irregular stay and work.
- For instance, the Swiss Operation Papyrus included public campaigns to encourage formal employment of domestic workers, labour market controls to ensure working conditions were being met once workers were regularised, and measures to ensure that those regularised would not remain isolated but have support, for example to find affordable French classes.