“WE’RE ALREADY PART of Irish life,” says one of what is believed to be about 30,000 undocumented migrants living in Ireland today.
“I want to say to Irish people: we’re your neighbours and friends, we care for your children and your grandparents. We serve you in cafés and we shop in your stores,” continued spokesperson for Justice for the Undocumented Allan Danou.
The group will gather outside the Dáil from 9am today for a 24-hour Vigil of Hope. They want to highlight their plight ahead of Christmas time. A candlelit family gathering has also been organised for 6pm this evening.
“I wish I could be with my children at Christmas, but if I go back then how will I support my family,” added Danou.
Philippines native Jayson Montenegro has already spent 10 Christmases away from his family.
“I have been in Ireland through the good and the bad times,” he says. “I feel Irish. I have been here so long. But this is not just about me: it is also about the 30,000 undocumented migrants, including children, who are seeking a solution to their situation.”
The Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland has tabled a proposal which would allow undocumented people to come forward, register, pay a fine and begin to earn their way to permanent residency. The Earned Regularisation scheme would take five years of working, paying taxes and participating in the community.
It is a similar plan to what is being debated in the US Congress which would help thousands of undocumented Irish there.
“Irish politicians have spent years lobbying for regularisation for Irish people who find themselves undocumented in the United States,” says Edel McGinley, deputy director of the MRCI.
“How can they expect their words to be taken seriously when they continue to ignore the plight of undocumented migrants here in Ireland?” she argues.
“Earned Regularisation is a pragmatic, realistic solution to a Celtic Tiger problem. Our immigration system is broken, and it’s not hard for people to fall through the gaps.
One of our young members has just turned 17 and Ireland is the only home she has known.
“The government needs to give workers, families and children the chance to come forward and earn their way to a regular status; it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the smart thing to do.”
How do people become undocumented?
According to the MRCI, most undocumented migrants entered Ireland through legal channels – often a student or tourist visa. People who were here as dependents often become undocumented at the breakdown of a relationship.
The majority of undocumented have been here for more than five years, many for as long as 14 years. They come from 87 countries, with the largest numbers from the Philippines, China, Mauritius, Pakistan, Ukraine, Brazil, Bangladesh, Moldova and South Africa.
Most are in employment, many with the same employer for more than three years.
Yesterday: Ireland is failing to meet its international obligations on asylum seekers says the Irish Refugee Council