Gone is “the fear that the next knock on the door will be someone to take us away”, said Tjanasi Potso, responding to today’s announcement by Justice Minister Helen McEntee of an amnesty for undocumented migrants.

This morning, the Minister announced details of a scheme open to anyone living here for over four years who needs to regularise their immigration status. For people with children, three years will suffice. The scheme also includes a separate track for International Protection applicants who are in the process for a minimum of two years.

Ms. Potso is chairperson of the Justice for Undocumented Group.

She said, “This scheme will allow us to live securely in our homes, no longer in fear that the next knock at the door will be someone to take us away. We can stand up for our rights at work, our children can grow up safely, and we can visit our families for the first time in many years.”

Saying it will “transform our lives” Ms. Potso added, “Make no mistake this was achieved because a small group of people took a big step to come forward and campaign for rights and recognition.”

For her part, Minister McEntee said “undocumented people will no longer have “to live in the shadows”. An estimated 17,000 people are likely to benefit.

Though the move had been expected by NGOs that support migrants, they were caught partly by surprise when the justice minister made the actual announcement.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland said, “This move will benefit so many undocumented women, many of them at the heart of our communities, and working in key sectors of our economy such as childcare, retail and cleaning.”

Community Work Ireland described it as “a game changer for so many” and “justice after years of hard and very creative work”.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland which supported Tjanasi’s group described it as “huge news” and “a major victory” after years of campaigning.

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) said it was “pleased to see (the) scheme reflecting submissions on the way it will be administered”. MASI co-ordinator, Bulelani Mfaco and Ms. Potso were among 25 campaign leaders who called in September for any amnesty scheme to be “broad and inclusive”.

However, it also said today: “We are mindful that the schemes don’t include everyone and urge parties in government to provide a pathway for frontline workers.”

A scheme to regularise the position of undocumented migrants was part of the Programme for Government agreed last year.