Press Release: 14 September 2009
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) welcome the introduction today by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, TD, of a long-awaited scheme to regularise migrant workers who have become undocumented for reasons beyond their control.
The scheme announced today grants the opportunity for non-EEA migrant workers who have fallen out of the work permit system and become undocumented through workplace exploitation, deception, or unexpected redundancy, to apply for a four-month temporary residence permission. During this period, individuals will be permitted to apply to re-enter the work permit system.
Over the past three years, MRCI and Congress have been actively campaigning for the introduction of a scheme that has become commonly known as the “Bridging Visa,” which would allow migrants who had become undocumented for reasons beyond their control an opportunity to get back into the system. There are no official figures as to the number of undocumented workers this scheme would benefit, however MRCI estimates it could benefit several thousand.
Congress official Esther Lynch welcomed the scheme: “Condemning undocumented migrant workers to a life of fear benefits no one but abusive and exploitative employers. In that context, Congress welcomes this new scheme to help regularise the situation of those workers that have become undocumented through no fault of their own. It is a necessary first step and helps prevent the emergence of a working underclass that is without either hope or protection,” she said.
MRCI Director, Siobhán O’Donoghue, said, “The government is on the right path towards fixing the problems created by a poorly-designed immigration and work permit system. But this is only the first step towards regularising the estimated 30,000 undocumented persons in Ireland, many of whom have similar stories to the undocumented Irish in theU.S. A wider scheme is still needed to provide a pathway for them to come forward and be allowed to participate more fully and equally in Irish society.”