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Exclusive: Government has no plan to cap number of illegal immigrants to be granted amnesty

With the Government’s planned amnesty for illegal immigrants due to begin in November or early December of this year the Department of Justice has confirmed to Gript that there are currently no proposals to limit or cap the number of illegal immigrants who can be granted amnesty through the scheme.

The amnesty has been reported as offering a “once in a generation” opportunity for 17,000 undocumented migrants in the country, amongst them up to 3,000 children. However, as Gript reported yesterday, the Government has no official estimates or data on the actual number of undocumented migrants in the country and the figures given above are simply unofficial estimates provided to the Minister of Justice by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), a pro-amnesty NGO.

As the Government is effectively totally unaware of the number of undocumented migrants in the country, and they have no plans to limit the number of people who can apply to the upcoming amnesty, the proposed scheme could see substantially higher than expected numbers of illegal immigrants applying for, and receiving, amnesty.

We also asked the Department if there was a concern that the proposed amnesty would be in violation of the 2008 European Pact on Asylum and Migration. In July 2017 then Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan noted that the Pact represented a barrier to any proposed mass amnesty as the Pact, whilst not legally binding, was a political commitment by Ireland which “then and now, is clearly against any form of progress that would in any way legitimise the status of those unlawfully present without first examining the merits of their individual cases.”

The Department told us that the amnesty would not breach the pact as “it is the intention that each application under the scheme will be assessed individually.” Whilst the exact terms and conditions of the scheme have not yet been announced it remains to be seen how practical conducting an individual assessment of any detail would be if the numbers who apply for amnesty exceeds the estimate put forward by the MRCI.

A note on terminology: The Department of Justice told Gript that the Government’s proposed amnesty would not be “an amnesty” but rather “a regularisation scheme.” We have chosen to describe the scheme as an amnesty as the European Commission lists “amnesty (in the context of migration)” and “regularisation” as synonyms and the distinction appears to be primarily an attempt to frame the scheme in a more favourable light by distancing it from a term which the public knows and understands.

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