Press Centre

Three out of Four in Favour of Legalising Undocumented Workers

PRESS RELEASE: 10 October 2007

An opinion poll commissioned by Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and the Forum on Migration and Communications (FOMACS) indicates that three out of every four people in Ireland believe that the Government should give undocumented migrant workers the opportunity to legalise their status.

The poll, carried out by RedC in August of this year, asked 1,000 adults what they thought the Government policy should be towards the estimated 50,000 undocumented migrants working in Ireland.  77% of the general public polled thought the Government policy should be to give migrants the opportunity to legalise their status provided they work and pay taxes.  19% felt that the Government should require undocumented workers to leave the country immediately.  4% did not know or refused to answer (see attached). 

“This poll indicates quite clearly how the public feels about this issue, contrary to the view expressed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the Dáil last week,” said Jacqueline Healy, Acting Director of the MRCI. “We have been trying for some time to meet with Minister Brian Lenihan, to start to discuss some practical and humanitarian solutions regarding undocumented workers.”

For over two years the MRCI has been urging the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to implement a temporary 6-month residency stamp called a Bridging Visa for migrants from outside the EU who have entered Ireland lawfully but have become undocumented for reasons beyond their control, through situations such as workplace exploitation or unexpected redundancy.   For most non-EU migrants in Ireland, legal status is tied to a work permit which binds them to a specific employer.   If a problem develops with the employer a migrant worker’s legal status is easily put in jeopardy.

“This temporary permission would be an opportunity for individuals to come forward,” says Ms. Healy. “By not allowing this pathway the current Government is actually contributing to the numbers of undocumented workers here in Ireland by keeping them in the shadows and in exploitative situations.”  This was echoed recently by Minister Micheal Martin who stated, ‘When you have people that are without a legal status in the country they are vulnerable to exploitation and mistreatment.”

“Most Irish would be aware of the extreme difficulties of being undocumented as experienced by undocumented Irish in the US who are unable to access services or travel home to see loved ones and live in constant fear of being deported,” mentions Rajat Bhatnagar, a migrant worker from India and member of MRCI’s Bridging Visa Campaign.  “We hope that the Government will implement such a response, similar to the one they are openly advocating for undocumented Irish in the US.  To do otherwise is grossly hypocritical.”

ENDS

Notes:

Representatives of the MRCI Bridging Visa Campaign Group are available to speak directly with the press.  MRCI’s Bridging Visa Campaign Group is made up primarily of migrant workers who have become undocumented for reasons beyond their control.    They have decided to come together to work for change.   Some individuals are still undocumented and suffering the injustice of their situation and others have been able to resolve their situation but feel strongly about ensuring that the kind of desperate situation that they were made to endure does not happen to other migrant workers in Ireland.

Poll Results:

17807 Undocumented Migrants in Ireland

There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented migrants working in Ireland.

What do you think Government policy should be towards these migrant workers?

Base:  all adults aged 18+

(1,000)

%

Give migrants the opportunity to legalise their status provided they work and pay taxes

77

Require undocumented workers to leave the country immediately

19

Don’t Know

3

Refused to answer

1