An undocumented worker in Ireland has spoken of her joy at being reunited with her children after 14 years, following the opening of a government-backed scheme.
Irene Jagoba, a mother of two children, is one of the thousands of undocumented immigrants who can now apply to regularize their status.
The scheme means long-term undocumented people can gain official access to the workforce.
Described as a “once in a generation” scheme, it is expected to benefit up to 17,000 people, including 3,000 children.
Ms. Jagoba traveled to Ireland in 2008, leaving her two young children behind in the Philippines.
She came to Dublin on a tourist visa and, after getting a job as a nanny, overstayed her time.
“I kept working for 14 years to support myself and my family at home,” Ms Jagoba told the PA news agency.
“I am very happy because the regularization scheme is finally open. It truly is a historic day for thousands of undocumented families and workers.
“It will change the lives of thousands of people and we will be able to travel back home and visit our family and come back here to work.
“Once I get my documents, I can travel back home.
“That means a lot because I left my children when they were very young. My son was only almost two years old and I haven’t seen him since, that means a lot.”
Ms Jagoba said seeing her sons, now aged 16 and 22, after many years apart is “a very important thing for me”.
“We talk online and make video calls every day, doing his homework. I work as a childminder and I take very good care of those children, and I do that for my own children,” she added.
Ms Jagoba said the scheme will enable her and thousands of others to become full members of society.
“I can live without fear and live a normal life and be able to have a proper job,” he added.
“Everyone in my community is very happy for today.”
The scheme opens after an 11-year campaign called Justice for the Undocumented, which began at the Migrant Rights Center Ireland (MRCI).
Neil Bruton, campaign leader at the MRCI, said it is a historic day.
“We are delighted to finally see the opening of this regularization scheme,” he added.
“This scheme will transform the lives of thousands of undocumented people, allowing them to live safely, defend their basic rights and truly live a normal life at home here in Ireland.
“Today’s opening is particularly momentous for those in the Justice for the Undocumented group.
“They have been fighting for this regularization for the last 11 years. They themselves are a group of undocumented people, who took the brave step of stepping up and taking action in many different ways over the 11 years.
“They have been campaigning and it really is they who should feel very proud today, knowing that all their efforts and sacrifices have led to this life-changing moment for so many people.”
He added, however, that campaigners would like to see the scheme expanded to include more people.
“This scheme does not solve everything,” he added.
“We would have liked more undocumented immigrants to be included.”
For the next six months, undocumented people can apply to regularize their status in Ireland.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said it will benefit thousands of people who live in Ireland and are part of the communities.
“Many of them are working and paying taxes, their children are in our schools and they are part of our community,” he added.
“We may not even know that they are (here) undocumented. But they have been living with a cloud over them and this will allow them to request regularization of their situation and continue with their lives.
“Many of them have not been able to return to their home countries, they have not seen their family for many, many years. I think this will open doors for them.”
Applicants will need to meet a particular set of criteria, including residence in Ireland for a continuous period of four years. However, the Fine Gael minister said a 90-day period has been built into the scheme allowing a person to leave the state for a valid reason.
Applicants with children must live in Ireland for three years, while asylum seekers must serve a minimum period of two years.
The scheme also accepts applications from people with expired student visas and those with pending deportation orders.
Ms. McEntee stated that she hopes to have the applications finalized as soon as possible.
“I hope that by the end of the year, moving into next year, we will start to see some of the first people getting their positive positions,” he told RTE Morning Ireland.
“We want to get over it as quickly as possible.
“There is an appeal process and it will be reviewed by someone who may not have reviewed your initial application.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.