Justice Minister Helen McEntee appeared evasive yesterday when asked about how her department would prevent future instances of illegal immigration by Gript reporters.
“Minister, your department is planning to give amnesty to tens of thousands of illegal immigrants later in this year,” asked Gript’s Ben Scallan during a press conference on Tuesday about a new community policing bill.
WATCH: I asked Justice Minister Helen McEntee how her department plans to discourage illegal immigration in future – she ultimately failed to give me a straight answer.
— Ben Scallan 🇮🇪 (@Ben_Scallan) April 27, 2021
“It seems fair to expect that giving amnesty to those who have broken irish immigration law could very easily incentivize other people to break those laws as well. So I think a lot of people would like to know: what mechanism, if any, is your department planning to prevent this kind of crime from happening in the future?”
“Well, firstly, what I would say we are doing is we are providing an amnesty to many thousands of people who live here, who have set up a life here, who have family here, who are very much contributing to our society,” replied the Justice Minister.
“We are asking other countries to provide that same type of compassion to our own citizens – for example, in the US, where we have many thousands of undocumented citizens.
“This will be a closed scheme – it will operate for only a set period of time. There will be very clear criteria that people will have to adhere to, and really it’s about making sure that, as I’ve said, those who are contributing to our society, who find themselves very much in limbo, and unable to live their lives in the way that they should be able to, that we can give them some clarity eventually.”
Notably, at no point during her response did the Minister touch on an answer to Gript’s question.
McEntee went on to add that the government had already given residency rights to non-EU nationals illegally living in the country with what she called “student schemes.”
“We’ve done this in the past with other schemes, be it around student schemes or others,” she said.
“They are very much time-limited schemes.”
This refers to a previous immigration scheme which closed on January 20th 2019, whereby illegal non-EU nationals who previously held a valid student visa between the 1st of January 2005 and 31st of December 2010, could apply for permission to remain in Ireland despite overstaying their permitted visiting time.
Additionally, the individual’s family or partner was allowed to stay under those rules.
While Gript contacted the Department of Justice for further clarity, we received little more information, with a department spokesperson simply saying that “The Government is sympathetic to the situation of undocumented people in Ireland,” but giving little in the way of detailed answer.
To date no government representative has been able to explain what systems will be put in place to prevent further illegal immigration in future.