The Programme for Government contains a commitment to create new pathways for long-term undocumented people and their dependents meeting specified criteria to regularise their status within 18 months of the formation of the Government, bearing in mind European Union and Common Travel Area commitments. Ireland along with other Member States of the EU, has committed, under the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum (2008), to a case-by-case approach as opposed to mass regularisation. However, the Government recognises that some of our own citizens face similar challenges abroad and is sympathetic to the situation of people who find themselves in an undocumented position through no fault of their own.
A policy paper on the matter is being drafted by my Department at the present time. This will include an assessment of international best practices. I recently met with the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland to listen to their proposals for undocumented minors and I am also engaging with other key organisations working with migrants including the International Organization for Migration.
In 2018, my Department established a scheme to regularise the status of non-EEA nationals who held a student permission during the period 1 January 2005 to 31 December 2010, that had expired. Over 3,100 applications were received primarily from former students and their family members and over 2,200 applicants were successful in regularising their immigration status. The Scheme concluded on 20 January 2019, and will be considered, alongside other schemes, in any future policy on undocumented migrant children.
In all cases, people must engage with the authorities if they wish to be permitted to remain here legally. I would encourage any person who is resident in the State without permission to contact my Department or their local immigration office and to take all appropriate steps to regularise their own and their family's status.
It is important to say that my Department does not actively seek information from other Government Departments or agencies relating to the immigration status of people with whom they are dealing. We have actively encouraged undocumented migrants to access health care, social supports or assistance from An Garda Síochána at any time and especially during the COVID-19 crisis. I want to take this opportunity to repeat that they have nothing to fear from doing so and they should continue to engage with supports where needed.