By Cate McCurry, PA
An undocumented worker in Ireland has spoken of her joy at being reunited with her children after 14 years, following the opening of a Government-backed scheme.
Irene Jagoba, a mother-of-two, is one of thousands of undocumented migrants who can now apply to regularise their status.
The scheme means long-term undocumented people can have official access to the workforce.
Described as a “once in a generation” scheme, it is expected to benefit up to 17,000 people, including 3,000 children.
The new undocumented scheme is now open.
Minister @HMcEntee’s new scheme will give those who are already contributing so much to our country and communities the opportunity to come in from the legal shadows & regularise their status.https://t.co/zC4T3kzpRF pic.twitter.com/t6ehytqsU7
— Fine Gael (@FineGael) January 31, 2022
Ms Jagoba travelled to Ireland in 2008, leaving her two small children in the Philippines.
She arrived to Dublin on a tourist visa and after securing work as a childminder, she overstayed her visa.
“I kept working for 14 years to support myself and my family back home,” Ms Jagoba told the PA news agency.
“I’m very happy because the regularisation scheme is finally open. It’s a historic day for thousands of undocumented families and workers really.
“It will change thousands of people’s lives and we will be able to travel back home and visit our family and come back here to work.
“Once I get my documents I can travel back home.
“That means a lot because I left my kids when they were very small. My son was only nearly two years old and I haven’t seen him since then, so that means a lot.”
Ms Jagoba said seeing her children, who are now aged 16 and 22, after many years apart is a “very big thing for me”.
“We talk online and do video calls every day, doing their homework. I work as a childminder and looking after those kids really well, and I kind of do that for my own kids,” she added.
Ms Jagoba said the scheme will allow her and thousands of others to become full members of society.
“I can live without fear and live a normal life and be able to be in proper employment,” she added.
“Everyone in my community is really happy for today.”
The scheme opens following a 11-year campaign called Justice for the Undocumented, which started at the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI).
Neil Bruton, campaigns lead at the MRCI, said it is a historic day.
“We are delighted to finally see this regularisation scheme opening,” he added.
“This scheme will transform the lives of thousands of undocumented people, it will allow them to live safely, to stand up for their basic rights and really just to live normal lives in their home here in Ireland.
“The opening today is particularly momentous for those in the Justice for the Undocumented group.
“They’ve been fighting for this regularisation for the past 11 years. They’re a group of undocumented people themselves, who took the brave step to come forward and to take action in many different ways over the 11 years.
“They’ve been campaigning and it’s really them that should be feeling very proud today, to know that all their efforts and sacrifices have led to this life-changing moment for so many people.”
He added, however, that campaigners would like to see the scheme broadened to include more people.
Our undocumented scheme is now open! It will give thousands of people who are already contributing so much to our country and communities the opportunity to come in from the legal shadows and regularise their status.
Find out more at https://t.co/An4XcLFZhJ pic.twitter.com/TloEfi8thp
— Helen McEntee TD (@HMcEntee) January 31, 2022
“This scheme doesn’t solve everything,” he added.
“We would have liked for more undocumented people to have been included in it.”
Over the next six months, individuals who are undocumented can apply to regularise their status in Ireland.
Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, said it will benefit thousands of people who live in Ireland and are part of communities.
“Many of them are working and paying taxes, their children are in our schools, and are part of our community,” she added.
“We might not even know that they’re (here) in an undocumented way. But they have been living with a cloud hanging over them and this will allow them to apply to regularise their status and to get on with their lives.
“For many of them, they haven’t been able to return home to the countries that they’re from, they haven’t seen family in many, many years. I think this will open that up for them.”
Applicants will have to meet a particular set of criteria, including residing in Ireland for a four-year continuous period. However, the Fine Gael minister said that a period of 90 days has been built into the scheme that allows for an individual who left the state for a valid reason.
Applicants with children will have to live in Ireland for three years, while asylum seekers will have to meet a two-year minimum period.
The scheme also accepts applications from people with expired student visas and those with pending deportation orders.
Ms McEntee said she hopes to have the applications finalised as soon as possible.
“I do hope by the end of the year moving into next year, we’ll start to see some of the first people getting their positive positions,” she told RTÉ Morning Ireland.
“We want to move through it as quickly as possible.
“There is an appeals process and it will be looked at by someone who hasn’t looked at their initial application.”