Friday, 26 March 2021
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I welcome the Minister to the House. I really appreciate that she is here to discuss the important issue of the fast-tracking of citizenship for non-national healthcare workers. It is an issue that I have raised in the House before. As we know, migrants currently make up 26% of essential workers in Ireland. Our hospitals have been very active in seeking work permits for non-EU staff since the beginning of the Covid crisis. There is no doubt but that without their work, the country's efforts to combat Covid-19 might well have collapsed. They have been the absolute backbone of the Irish healthcare system, whether it was in hospitals or nursing homes or whether it was caring for individuals in their own homes.
I am going to address the circumstances of essential workers who are asylum seekers, many of whom are living in direct provision and often forgotten about. Elsewhere in Europe, the contribution made by foreign healthcare workers has been recognised with a commitment to fast-tracking their citizenship. Numerous countries, including Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Canada, have recognised the contribution made by migrant healthcare workers and asylum seekers working on the front line during the Covid 19 pandemic by granting them full citizenship rights and permission to remain in recognition of their selfless efforts to care for the vulnerable. It is time that the same recognition was given here by the Irish Government. Delays in the current system are causing frustration and desperation. Healthcare workers and their families who meet citizenship requirements should have their applications expedited.At an unstable time, we need to provide stability for our essential front-line workers. Dr. Liqa ur Rehman tells us that most foreign doctors end up waiting eight years for Irish citizenship. It is not enough to pay tribute to people such as Ms Mariter Tarugo , Dr. Syed Waqqar Ali, Mr. Solson Saviour and others who have passed away fighting our war. The contribution made by these hard-working people should be reflected in the processing of their citizenship applications. An online petition was launched by Dr. Mohsin Kamal of Crumlin hospital calling on the Department of Justice follow suit on other countries and expedite the citizenship process. I feel strongly that this must be looked at.
I have been working with and listening to our asylum seeker community who are working in essential services. I want, for them, to read part of a letter into the record:
We are requesting favourable consideration in granting us, the essential workers among the asylum seeker community, leave to remain in Ireland in recognition of the contributions made to the Irish economy and society during the pandemic. The journey we have made is not an exciting journey or a comfortable option. We live without our families. We left them for their safety and benefit. Asylum seekers generally live in direct provision accommodation centres around the country, meaning they are provided with accommodation and food but with little privacy and independence. We have had to find our way to work come rain, snow or sunshine, denied the basic right to drive, so we find ourselves walking or cycling for hours to get to our place of work. There are between 500 to 800 essential working asylum seekers currently risking their lives every day during this pandemic. We are looking to remain for our front-line essential workers, freedom for Ireland's future adults, our children, to be treated as citizens of this country with dignity, grace and respect.
I rest my case.