I propose to take Questions Nos. 505 and 506 together.
It is the responsibility of all non EEA nationals who are resident in the State to ensure that they have an appropriate permission from the Minister for Justice and Equality. All States operate immigration controls for well established reasons of public policy, including considerations of an economic nature which in the case of Ireland remains extremely challenging with ongoing high levels of unemployment. There are also considerations based on maintaining the integrity of the Common Travel Area with the UK which must be taken into account.
Legal and illegal migration are two sides of the same coin and a balanced policy needs to facilitate regular migration channels while at the same time take action against immigration abuse. Many people from overseas have made Ireland their home in recent years. In this context it is worth noting that many of the EU citizens who arrived here during times of economic prosperity have chosen to remain notwithstanding the change in economic circumstances. In addition, many individuals have been granted citizenship in recent years. Over the past two years alone, approximately 38,000 individuals have successfully applied for and been successful in their citizenship applications, approximately 13,000 in 2011 and approximately 25,000 in 2012.
Of course, citizenship is not the only means of attaining lawful residence in the State. For example, through an accrual of employment permits an individual may choose to apply for long term residence, or to continue to renew his or her status on an annual basis. Tens of thousands of immigrants have remained on in the State on foot of such provisions.
Clearly, all illegal immigrant cases are not the same and must be dealt with on a case by case basis and on the basis of their individual circumstances. At one end of the scale are those where the person's illegal status is through no fault of their own and indeed my Department has been dealing with cases of this nature on an ongoing basis. However there are also much more egregious instances of immigration abuse, often at considerable expense to the State and it does not follow that such persons should profit from their conduct.
At EU Level, the Member States, in agreeing the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum at the European Council in October 2008 made specific commitments "to use only case-by-case regularisation, rather than generalised regularisation, under national law, for humanitarian or economic reasons". While the Pact is not legally binding, the political commitment among Member States, then and now, is clearly against any form of process that would in any way legitimise the status of those unlawfully present without first examining the merits of their individual cases.
In looking at cases as they arise, among the issues that would be relevant to the outcome would be the circumstances in which the person became undocumented, the length of time they have been in that situation, their prospects of being able to gain lawful employment without being a drain on the financial resources of the State along with the more general considerations applicable to immigration decisions, including any family related rights they may have in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Sometimes case by case consideration will result in a positive outcome for the applicant. However, in other cases this may result in a decision by the Irish authorities, subject to the oversight of our Courts, that the person has to go home. That decision should be respected.