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Press Release

After UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, Ireland needs immigration reform

By 9 September 2016February 10th, 2020No Comments

On the eve of the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants (19 Sept 2016) in New York, the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) calls on the Irish government to take the lead in implementing commitments made at the summit.

Edel McGinley, Director of the MRCI, said “This is the first summit of its kind, a recognition of the importance of migration to all communities, societies and economies. States will agree on the implementation of a number of key commitments as outlined in the draft outcome document. The commitments address labour migration, integration and anti-racism as well as responses to refugees, and reflect many of the concerns we have highlighted in Ireland over the past 15 years. As co-chair of the preparatory process which produced the draft outcome documents to be ratified today, Ireland must take the lead in implementing these commitments at home.”

“As a country with a long history of migration, Ireland is well-placed to lead the world in migration policies and procedures. As we return to net inward migration for the first time since the crash, Ireland must now take swift action to build a modern, sensible and fair immigration system.”

McGinley stated, “Following on from the UN Summit, the Government should take five key steps:

  • Reform the immigration system and work permit system, recognising the right to permanent residency and family reunification
  • Tackle discrimination and exploitation in the labour market
  • Introduce a regularisation scheme for undocumented workers
  • Develop a National Integration Strategy and a National Action Plan against Racism
  • Speed up the pace of relocation and resettlement of refugees.”

McGinley continued, “While some progress has been made in recent years, much of our current immigration system is not fit for purpose. Our work permit system ties people to one employer. Our international student system makes it almost impossible for students to become workers. Our immigration system lacks transparency, flexibility and coherence. It doesn’t see people as people. There are some 26,000 undocumented people in Ireland today, and the system is largely responsible for that.”

“In many ways, Ireland’s immigration system actively hinders integration. When people are trapped in exploitative jobs, when their immigration status is precarious, when their rights are curtailed, it’s very difficult for them to become part of the community. Clearer paths to residency and citizenship, seeing migrants as people with full lives rather than just as workers or students – these simple changes will make all the difference to Ireland in this new period of inward migration.”

McGinley concluded, “To avoid the mistakes of the recent past, we need legal channels of migration for workers, for refugees and for families. Ireland could become a world leader in immigration policies and procedures, to the benefit of all.”


Based in Dublin, the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has been working with migrants in Ireland for 15 years.

For more information on the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, please see

The draft outcome document is available at

Workers on the Move: Past Lessons and Future Perspectives on Ireland’s Labour Migration is available at

The Refugee and Migrant Coalition, of which MRCI is a member, recently released a statement on Ireland’s slow progress in accepting refugees: