Costs and bureaucracy remain barriers to people who wish to become Irish Citizens and should be examined as part of an overall review of the process, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre.
The warning comes as 800 people receive their citizenship at a ceremony in University College Cork on Monday, 24th November. In October, 3,100 received their citizenship at ceremonies in Dublin.
The two organisations say that while reforms have ensured that 77,000 people received citizenship during ceremonies over the past 3-years, Ireland still lags behind other European countries and has one of the highest naturalisation fees in the world.
Both are asking the Government to implement four measures:
- A review of the €175 application fee and €950 for a certificate, this cases great difficulties in the case of families with multiple applications.
- Clear rules and guidelines for applicants to replace the current system which is almost entirely discretionary
- The introduction of an appeals system so as people do not have to apply multiple times
- Special citizenship packs to include voter registration
Denise Charlton, Chief Executive with the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said:
“While today there will be joyous scenes and happy memories for 800 citizens with their families and friends the reality is that there is still work to do to ensure people who want to make a commitment to Ireland do not face un-necessary barriers.
Close examination of Europe wide figures show we still lag behind other countries – lying 6th in the EU in terms of rate of citizenship granted to foreign residents which is at 4.6%.
Such a low rate tells us something is wrong and the first thing that should be looked at is the cost of naturalisation with our fees now ranking among the highest in the world.
The Government is quick to point to the reforms which have already been introduced and we acknowledge they have had a positive impact – but if we are honest that is only part of the story and there is still work to do.”
Fiona Finn, Chief Executive of Nasc added:
“Firstly today is one of celebration for all going to UCC and our call in no way takes away from that. What we want to ensure is that others who will follow those receiving citizenship will have an easier path.
In addition to the costs issue both the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Nasc are seeking clear rules and guidelines to make the process easier to negotiate and to end the almost total reliance on discretion.
The introduction of an appeals system is also important as it would not only allow people to have their application reviewed, but bring clarity which they can use in a renewed bid for citizenship.
We must also ensure that new citizens are active citizens. We believe an information pack including voter registration forms should be presented at ceremonies. Today at UCC members of Nasc will be providing information on voter registration to ensure people can secure their vote.”
The Immigrant Council of Ireland and Nasc are developing a joint citizenship campaign ahead of the forthcoming General Election that is being developed partly as a result of the Immigrant Citizenship Campaigns project funded by Open Society Foundations from February to October 2014. The campaign will follow up on their previous work on this issue, focusing on providing information about the citizenship application process and supporting people in applying for citizenship, monitoring application refusals, lobbying for important reforms in the citizenship process, encouraging new citizens to register to vote and to engage with their local politicians and political parties, and generally developing a greater sense of belonging for new Irish citizens to promote integration. This is based on the model developed by MPG of citizenship campaigns for immigrants that aims to inform and encourage thousands of immigrants to become citizens, register to vote, participate in politics and turn out for elections.