The Irish government has announced a scheme that will provide a pathway to legal status for people who have been awaiting an asylum decision for at least two years. The news was welcomed by organisations who have long campaigned for the reduction of backlogs in regularisation and the importance of secure legal status for displaced people making their home in Ireland.

On 3 December, the Irish government announced a landmark scheme to regularise long-term undocumented persons. During a six-month window beginning in January 2022, people who have resided in Ireland for four years, or three if they have children, will be able to apply for legal permission to reside. While the scheme will primarily benefit 17,000 undocumented people – allowing them access to the labour market and a pathway to citizenship – it also encompasses a parallel process for asylum seekers. People “who have an outstanding application for international protection and have been in the asylum process for a minimum of two years” will be able to apply for regularisation. Critically, the 550 euro application fee will be waived for these applicants. Justice minister Helen McEntee said: “We know that regularisation programmes can yield important social benefits and improvements in economic living conditions and a reduction in the potential for exploitation in employment. […] It will bring some much-needed certainty and peace of mind to thousands of people who are already living here and making a valuable contribution to our society and the economy, many of whom may be very vulnerable due to their current immigration circumstances”.

NGOs and coalitions including the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and the Justice for the Undocumented movement have long campaigned for a broad and inclusive regularisation scheme in Ireland. The policy change was in particular spurred by an expert advisory group that included the Irish Refugee Council, Nasc, and the Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland. Nick Henderson, chief executive of ECRE member the Irish Refugee Council, warmly welcomes the scheme stating it “will be a crucial device in reducing the substantial backlogs and delays that exist in the Irish regularisation process”. Henderson said about 1,600 asylum seekers would be eligible for the scheme.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.