Government Accused Over Migrants

Govt accused over migrants

The Irish Times
Last Updated: 18/12/2007 17:50

The Government was today accused of promoting contradicting policies over the issue of undocumented migrants.

While ministers lobby for citizenship for 50,000 Irish people in the US, the Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) claimed people in the same position here were being told to leave the country.

It accused the State of ignoring the glaring similarities between the two groups of migrant workers. Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern and Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan of sending out contradictory messages.

The findings are part of the first in-depth study on undocumented migrants here Living in the Shadows: An Exploration of Irregular Migration in Ireland .

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, launched the report at the Mansion House in Dublin and warned of the challenge facing Ireland.

“Migrants living and working in an irregular status are clearly one of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in Irish society today,” she said.

“Ireland prides itself on its track record in promoting human rights across the globe. We are now challenged to respond to the situation of undocumented and irregular migrants in Ireland in a way that is consistent with our human rights commitments.”

The authors urged the Government to take action to provide pathways to regularise undocumented migrants. “Not only will this contribute to a reduction in irregular migration in Ireland it will place the Irish government in a stronger position to help the undocumented Irish in the US,” the report said.

It found that some migrants who entered the country admitted they came seeking employment, despite entering on tourist visas. It warned of an increasing vilification of migrants in political and media discourse when they are described as 'illegal' or 'non-national'.

And it also set out the threats. Many faced difficulties with employers not renewing work permits, exploitation and a lack of knowledge of requirements, rights and entitlements.

It also noted the lack of flexibility in immigration policy when migrant workers are faced with a wide variety of unforeseen circumstances.

Exploitation, deception by employers and agencies, or unexpected redundancy were added dangers. Similar to the experience of Irish people in the US, regardless of how they came to have an irregular status they found themselves vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

They were also not able to return home for family crises. The undocumented suffered uncertainty, insecurity and the stress of remaining invisible or dodging immigration control.

The MRCI made a series of recommendations.

– Introduction of a temporary, six-month Bridging Visa or stamp for non-EU/EEA nationals with valid work permits, but have not secured regular status.

– Greater flexibility and mobility within the immigration system to allow workers to transfer between schemes and statuses.

– Give undocumented migrant workers access to health care.

– Protections for the victims of all forms of trafficking.

The report also found immigration legislation does not provide paths for undocumented migrants to regularise their status and remain in the country. Despite the demand for their labour and contribution to our social and economic well-being, they rarely have opportunities to achieve a legal status.