Speaking at the launch of the Irish Immigration Lawyers’ Association (IILA) this afternoon (23 July), the Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that Ireland would develop a fully digital customer-centric immigration service over the next three years.
Immigration is a complex and dynamic area of law and practice, the Taoiseach said.
He added that a lack of ‘security of status’ can leave people more vulnerable to exploitation because certain unscrupulous employers can take advantage of those in a precarious legal situation.
“That is why [the] Government is fully committed to introducing a regularisation scheme for the undocumented by the end of this year,” he said.
Those who meet regularisation criteria to remain in the State will become part of Irish society, he commented.
The newly-formed association will provide an important forum for education and information-sharing to maintain high standards of professionalism and expertise, Mr Martin added.
He said that the Government welcomed policy input from all stakeholders on immigration-related commitments in the Programme for Government and the Justice Plan 2021: “Immigration policies and legislation have a very real and immediate impact on people’s lives. We recognise the economic, social, and cultural benefits of migration to our shores.
“Migrants make a vital contribution to daily life in Ireland, from health and social care, to food supplies and local services, to our artistic and cultural life,” he stated.
“Many migrants who make their home here decide to take the final step in integration to becoming Irish citizens.”
A richer Ireland
The pandemic has halted in-person ceremonies, but a statutory declaration process has been introduced, which has granted citizenship to almost 3,000 people since January.
“Our naturalised citizens bring their culture, history and traditions from their homelands with them, and Ireland is much richer for it,” the Taoiseach said, adding that he looked forward to further engagement with the Irish Immigration Lawyers’ Association, to build a fair and balanced immigration system with people at its heart.
Ms Justice Tara Burns, the judge in-charge of the asylum list, said that a dedicated immigration law association should have an input in policy issues.
“It is through this medium that real and effective change can occur for migrants coming to this country,” she added.
“Having not practised in the asylum area, I had very little knowledge of the ‘nuts-and-bolts’ involved in the system.
“As I have stated in court on very many occasions, I am, quite frankly, shocked at the level of work that goes into every application, every review, every proposed revocation,” she commented.
The judge added that she suspected that the work was poorly rewarded, as well as a difficult area of law to be involved in.
“Apart from the complexity of the law and the breadth of applications covered, you are frequently dealing with people in difficult circumstances, from different cultures, with a different language, who have an important story to tell.
“It falls on your shoulders to understand that complex situation and convert it into a viable application. This is a difficult task and, perhaps, one that is not widely recognised as required and valuable. However, it is noble and worthwhile,” the judge said.
Repatriation of asylum cases
Ms Justice Burns added that she would be leaving the asylum list at the end of the term.
“Of more important consequence is the fact that asylum [cases] will be repatriated into the judicial review list.
“This, I believe, will be of benefit to asylum cases, as it will have the consequence of more judges being available to hear those cases.”
Ms Justice Burns added that work was afoot to bring the Asylum, Immigration and Citizenship List Practice Direction into line with the general judicial review rules.
Meanwhile, James Browne (Minister of State for Law Reform, Youth Justice and Immigration) this afternoon updated stakeholders by webinar on the proposed regularisation scheme for long-term undocumented migrants.
Submissions received during the consultation process have been reviewed.
The minister confirmed that:
- Undocumented scheme will open by the end of the year,
- Successful applicants will receive immigration permission, access to the labour market and can begin path to citizenship.
Minister Browne said: “People come to Ireland to make a better life for themselves and their families and they can find themselves undocumented for many reasons.
"This scheme will provide an opportunity for those who meet its criteria to remain and reside in the State and to become part of mainstream Irish society rather than living on its margins,” he said.