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Disenfranchisement of immigrants continues as government inefficiency worsens

13 May, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin’s Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has expressed his astonishment at new figures showing that the naturalisation backlog has worsened since the last general election, despite government claims to have speeded up the process.

The Cavan-Monaghan Deputy said, “Just before the general election 2007 I obtained figures from the Department of Justice showing that more than 1,500 citizenship applications filed between 2002 and 2004 had yet to be decided, including more than one-third of all applications filed in 2004.

“The updated figures I received from the Minister this week show that for the comparable time period – 2004-2006 – there are now over 3,500 unprocessed applications. For the year 2006 this amounts to more than 42% of all applications filed.

“These figures put the lie to the Department’s claims to have speeded up the process. The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service website states that the average processing time is now 23 months, yet I am regularly contacted by applicants who have been waiting three years or longer for a decision. This contrasts with the neighbouring island, where the current average processing time is just six months despite the recent implementation of stricter eligibility measures.

“For many of these applicants, this delay means they will be unable to vote in the upcoming European elections. It is likely also that a substantial number of them reside in one of the two constituencies facing a Dáil by-election. Having long since exceeded the statutory requirements for naturalisation, they should be entitled to vote in that election. Instead they are being disenfranchised purely due to government inefficiency.

“The inability of this government to process naturalisation applications in a reasonable time is inexplicable, unjustifiable and completely at odds with its supposed  commitment to promoting integration. It is also a slap in the face to those who wish to be a part of the Irish nation. I urge all those awaiting naturalisation to ensure they are registered for the local elections – and to use their vote to send a message to the government parties, Fianna Fáil and the Greens, about the unacceptable treatment they are receiving in this process.” ENDS

Notes to editors:

Figures received in 2007 (Parliamentary Question 181 of 3rd April 2007):

Year     Naturalisation applications received       Naturalisation applications pending

2002                            3574                                                    13

2003                            3580                                                    132

2004                            4074                                                    1362

Figures received this week (Parliamentary Question 278 of 12th May 2009):

Year     No. of Applications received              No. of Applications pending a decision

2001                1,431                                                               0

2002                3, 574                                                              2

2003                3, 580                                                              26

2004                4, 074                                                              87

2005                4, 527                                                              470

2006                7, 030                                                              3, 019

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