More than 7,200 undocumented migrants living in Ireland have applied for a scheme to regularise their status.

Migrants Rights Centre Ireland has said at least 12% of those coming to it for help are falling just outside the scheme's eligibility criteria.

Under the scheme, which closes on Sunday, over 1,450 people have already been granted legal permission to remain in Ireland.

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland estimates that between 15,000 and 17,000 undocumented people, including up to 3,000 children, lived in Ireland when the scheme was opened six months ago, on 31 January 2022.

Over 1,450 people have already been granted legal permission to remain in Ireland under the scheme

Tjanasi Potso, an activist with Justice for the Undocumented who got her papers in June, said many "people who have been living in the shadows like me have now got their legal status through the Undocumented Scheme. We can now live with dignity and do simple things like work safely, go to the GP and report crimes without fear."

Justice for the Undocumented, a group made up of over 3,000 undocumented people, campaigned with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) for 11 years for the rights of undocumented workers and families to be recognised.

Neil Bruton, Campaign Lead at MRCI, said the current scheme was "hugely successful" and showed that "regularisations work" and said MRCI "hoped the Government would build on this progressive approach", and the MRCI "would love to see programmes in the future... for all other undocumented people left behind."

However, the Department of Justice has said that "there are no plans to offer a similar scheme again".

Both the Department and the MRCI are encouraging everyone who is eligible, to apply before Sunday's deadline.

MRCI caseworker Rhye Reid, who has been supporting applicants who wish to apply to the scheme said they have been very busy in recent weeks, with many new faces presenting to the office on Dublin's Dorset Street.

Neil Bruton, MRCI Campaign Lead (L) and Rhye Reid, MRCI caseworker (R)

Even with help, Rhye Reid said that the process remained daunting for many.

"The three main things that are stopping people from applying have been the high fees, so its €550 for an individual or €700 for a family... ,(the second thing is) the documents (you need) to provide, including passports and residency documents and then the third one is just fear," Rhye Reid said.

"If anyone has any concerns... worried about the fees, worried about documents, we just urge you to come in and talk to us because we will assist you," Rhye Reid said.

Valid or expired identity documents are being accepted as part of the application process.

A key element of the eligibility criteria is that a migrant has lived undocumented in the State continuously for the last four years, or for three years if they have a minor child, before 31 January 2022.

Mr Bruton said that around 7% of the undocumented migrants coming to MRCI for help had reached that four-year residence target after that date and were ineligible as a result.

Second regularisation scheme

There is a second regularisation scheme for asylum seekers who have been in the international protection process for two years or more, which closes on 7 August 2022.

The Department of Justice's International Protection Office wrote to approximately 4,000 potentially eligible applicants, and so far over 2,200 applications have been made under this scheme, and over 1,000 applicants have been given permission to remain.

Candi Latagan's application has already been granted

Mr Bruton said that around 5% of the people MRCI is seeing are "falling between the two schemes, so they have some time in asylum and sometime undocumented" but have failed to meet the threshold for either scheme.

Another cohort that Mr Bruton described as being "unfairly excluded" are "people who have had a long-term legal status here but then only have two or three years undocumented".

Michael O'Brien, Fisheries Campaign Lead in Ireland for the International Transport Workers' Federation said around 200 undocumented migrant fishers fall into this group.

"I would say a small handful, we're talking 10/20 maximum of fishers who are undocumented for four years or more were able to avail of the scheme," Mr O'Brien said.

"By my best estimation, maybe 200 or so who were documented in the atypical (working) scheme ... but fell out the scheme for various reasons, (from) injury to acrimony with their employers" and became undocumented, "were excluded from the scheme".

Mr O'Brien said this did not seem "fair or logical" and the ITF and migrant fishers were now "pinning our hopes" to what he described as the Government's "overdue review of the atypical (working) scheme" for non-EEA fishers, to address these concerns.

Mr Bruton said that the current scheme was "hugely successful" and showed that "regularisations work" and said MRCI "hoped the Government would build on this progressive approach", and the MRCI "would love to see programmes in the future... for all other undocumented people left behind".

The Department of Justice said that it was "examining applications pragmatically and humanely".

"Applicants will be supported in a positive way and, if they are not eligible for the scheme, other immigration options can be explored," a spokesperson said.

However, the spokesperson also reiterated the Department's position that this regularisation scheme was a "once in a generation" opportunity for individuals to regularise their status within the country.

"That is why the Minister and her Department strongly encourage anyone that is eligible under either strand of the scheme (either for undocumented migrants or international protection applicants) to apply before their respective closing dates (31 July and 7 August)."