Alexandros Michailidis/

Minister confirms no limit on number of illegal immigrants who can apply for amnesty

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee yesterday confirmed that the Government has placed no cap on the number of illegal immigrants who can apply to be granted the right to remain in Ireland under the government’s newly launched amnesty.

That won’t come as a terrible surprise to regular readers of Gript given that we reported it last August, but this is the first confirmation of our reporting by the Minister.

Both the Department of Justice and the Minister have made heavy use of an estimation, provided to them by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, that there are 17,000 illegal immigrants in the country.  However, as Gript has previously reported, the Department of Justice, despite claiming that multiple studies back up the figure of 17,000, has so far been unable to provide any evidence, or even the names of the studies, when asked to support that claim. The Minister herself has repeatedly failed, when directly requested to do so in Parliamentary Questions (PQs), to give details of, or even the names of, the studies in question.

At this point it would seem fair to assume that neither the Department nor the Minister are likely to possess multiple studies supporting that figure.

When asked if there were any plans to limit the number the number of illegal immigrants who could apply for the amnesty the Minister stated that the amnesty was part of the Programme for Government and that the Programme for Government had not suggested the amnesty be limited or capped in any way.

Whilst it is correct that the Programme for Government did not say the numbers who could apply for the amnesty should be capped, unsurprisingly as the entire section related to the amnesty is 35 words long, it is worth pointing out that the figure of 17,000 has been repeatedly presented, both to the public and to the media, as representing a cap on the scheme. It is nothing of the sort, as the Minister has now confirmed.

Minister McEntee also said that, due to the total absence of any official estimate as to how many illegal immigrants there are in Ireland, the Department “has allowed for the possibility” that there are “higher numbers” of illegal immigrants in the country than expected, and that these illegal immigrants may mean more demand for the amnesty scheme than anticipated.

The comments were made in response to a PQ put forward by Deputy Carol Nolan (Ind).

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