According to recent research Ireland has the second lowest rate in granting naturalisation applications in the EU at just 13%. Despite a citizenship regime which is theoretically more inclusive than many other EU states, only Luxembourg has a lower rate and the average rate across the EU (34%) is over two times higher than in Ireland.
In 2008, the Immigrant Council of Ireland published research that highlighted the fundamental extent to which immigration status affects people’s ability to make longer-term plans, participate in Irish society and, ultimately, their successful integration. This point was emphasised in connection with the importance of naturalisation and citizenship for immigrants in the Council’s 2011 ‘Living in Limbo’ report which called for changes to the naturalisation application process to simplify and speed up the process for those who wanted to obtain Irish citizenship.
This year’s report, published by the Migration Policy Group in Brussels, identified several barriers to Irish citizenship for applicants such as the lack guidelines for applicants and lack of clarity and transparency in light of the Minister for Justice and Equality’s absolute discretion regarding citizenship applications. This lack of transparency is worsened by the lack of a formal appeals system and the lack of reasons given in cases of a refusal. The report also notes that the Irish system is one of the most demanding in terms of documentation requirements and also has higher application costs than most other EU countries. Furthermore, despite a commitment by the Minister for Justice in 2011 to reduce waiting times for applicants to 6 months many applications are still taking over a year to complete.
Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Denise Charlton, said that Ireland’s low rate of citizenship has economic and social implications for Ireland, noting that immigrants who have been naturalised find it easier to integrate with Irish society and “are more often employed, less often overqualified for their jobs, have better housing conditions and have less difficulty paying household expenses.”