Migrants in Republic ‘terrified’ to report crime to gardaí

Imelda Morano is originally from the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Imelda Morano

Imelda Morano is originally from the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Imelda Morano

IMELDA Morano was working alone at a Dublin laundrette early on a Tuesday morning when a masked man burst in, held a sharp object to her face, and demanded money.

But despite her frightening experience, Ms Morano, who is originally from the Philippines, was “terrified” to report the crime to gardaí in case they discovered that she did not have permission to live in the Republic of Ireland.

Ms Morano said she was left badly shaken by the robbery.

“I was stunned. I couldn’t remember how to open the cash register, I was so scared,” she said.

“I managed to give him everything, even the coins, and he just went off very quickly.”

Her employer wanted to report the crime and promised to support her, but Ms Morano was initially reluctant in case she was arrested over her immigration status.

She said that after contacting gardaí about the robbery she was "really terrified".

“It was always in my mind," she said.

"So it was very hard to sleep after that incident, knowing that my information was with the guards (Irish police).”

Ms Morano was granted a residency permit and a pathway to Irish citizenship last year as part of a one-off amnesty scheme for undocumented migrants in the Republic.

More than 8,000 migrants have applied for the scheme. Around three-quarters of applications have been processed, with the vast majority being accepted.

Ms Morano said she would have no issue with contacting gardaí now. But she said other migrants, particularly those with uncertain immigration status, would not be so confident.

“People are being targeted, because people know they (migrants) are undocumented and they will not report (crimes),” she said.

“So they will just tolerate the threats and everything. I feel sorry for them.”


The Irish Network Against Racism’s (INAR) iReport system has logged racist incidents in the Republic since 2013.

Shane O’Curry, INAR manager, said iReport consistently showed that around 70% of victims from minority backgrounds were reluctant to contact gardaí “and when asked why that is the case, two-thirds of the respondents said it is because of their experiences, or the community’s experiences, of An Garda Síochána”.

He added: "We have had a number of reports to us of people either being profiled and asked for their documents, because of the colour of their skin”.

“People being asked: 'When did you come to this country? Can I see your passport?’ when they are a victim of, or witness to, a crime.”

Cork-based migrant charity Nasc - the Irish for link - said it was also concerned that migrants are not reporting crimes to police.

Nasc chief executive, Fiona Hurley, told The Detail: “We have seen a couple of dozen instances of people deciding not to report incidents to the gardaí because they are concerned that it may also trigger an investigation of their immigration status.”

“No one should be afraid to report a crime committed against them to the gardaí,” she said.

Shane O'Curry from INAR. Photo courtesy of Shane O'Curry

Shane O'Curry from INAR. Photo courtesy of Shane O'Curry

No official guidance

Immigration in the Republic is partly dealt with by the Garda National Immigration Bureau, and partly by the Department of Justice.

In 2020, a report by a senior Garda officer said that the force’s policy is to not investigate the immigration status of a person who is a victim to, or witness of, a crime, while an inquiry is ongoing.

However, it said victims or witnesses suspected of being in the Republic illegally may be referred to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) following the conclusion of an inquiry.

It is understood that some undocumented migrants are referred to the Department of Justice (DoJ).

A spokesman for the DoJ told The Detail it does not keep figures on referrals.

An Garda Síochána did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Last week, an investigation by The Detail revealed that the PSNI had shared information of dozens of migrant victims of crime with immigration enforcement authorities, despite previous assurances that they were not doing so.

Mr O’Curry said that the best practice internationally “is the principle of there being a firewall between people’s document (immigration) status and the criminal investigation, be embedded in in training, and that police make public statements as well”.

“The gold standard is that this is enshrined in law, or at least in police regulations,” he said.

“That's not the case in Ireland.”

The Republic has implemented information firewalls before. The Health Service Executive (HSE) stopped data swaps between itself and immigration authorities to encourage undocumented people to get vaccinated during the pandemic.

The Department of Social Protection took similar steps to allow undocumented workers to access unemployment support.

A National Action Plan is being drawn up to tackle racism.

Mr O’Curry said recommendations to include a ‘firewall’ provision were made by an Irish Government-appointed Anti-Racism Committee advising on the plan.

He said the plan was submitted by the Committee to the Minister for Equality, Roderic O’Gorman, in June 2022.

However, it has still not been published.

A spokesman told The Detail that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth could not comment on the details of the plan prior to its publication.

A Garda officer in February 2021. File photo by Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye.

A Garda officer in February 2021. File photo by Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye.

Domestic violence

Nasc said a ‘firewall’ is particularly needed to encourage migrant victims of domestic abuse to come forward.

Ms Hurley said some victims fear “reporting abuse to the gardaí because their immigration status is tied to that of their abusive spouse or partner”.

“When the threat of deportation or non-cooperation with immigration permission renewal is so frequently used as a tool of control in abusive relationships, it is unsurprising that some migrant victims of domestic violence fear to report abuse to the gardaí,” she said.

In 2012, guidelines were introduced allowing for victims of domestic violence to apply for independent Irish residency.

But Ms Hurley said the guidelines are only available in English and do not include any reference to coercive control.

“In our experience, it is rare that a migrant in an abusive relationship will have been aware of these guidelines before they attend our service,” she said.

“We know that the experience of submitting an application for independent residency can be extremely difficult and stressful for migrants who do not have specialist support.

“Writing a short and succinct summary of your own experience of abuse is so challenging even if your first language is English.

“We also come across people who struggle to provide the documentary evidence of abuse to support their application and they are often frightened by the official language of Department of Justice letters asking for further evidence of their relationship and the nature of the abuse.

“In some instances victims of domestic violence may be asked to provide copies of their abusive partner or spouse’s documents.”

Between 2020 and 2022, 142 people applied for Irish residency under the domestic abuse scheme.

Of the 142 applications, 117 people were granted residency.

Ms Hurley said the number of applications was “worryingly low”, given that one in six women in the Republic have experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner, according to Safe Ireland.

She said the number of applications “is very unlikely to reflect the numbers of migrant men and women who believe they are trapped in abusive relationships because of their immigration status".

Nasc said that information on the possibility of gaining an independent residency permit in the event of domestic violence should be included on immigration permission letters.

And that dependent partners should get Irish residency in their own right after two years.

“No one should be reliant on a partner or spouse to cooperate in their immigration permission renewal indefinitely," she said.

In a statement, the DoJ said its guidelines highlight that migrant victims of domestic abuse may fear for their immigration status.

“Anyone who is the victim of domestic abuse and whose permission to be in the State is linked to their partner, will have the issue of their status dealt with sensitively by immigration authorities and each case will be assessed on an individual basis,” a spokesman said.

“In order to ensure that support service providers are aware of the Immigration arrangements available to victims, immigration officials recently had an information/training session with Women’s Aid. In addition the (Immigration Service Delivery) website has a translation tool that provides translation of the sites pages.

“The Department is working with our NGO partners to address the specific concerns that victims of domestic violence may have and to develop and disseminate information specific to the needs of the groups they represent in a way that reaches the intended audience.

“The published guidelines for victims of domestic violence are currently under review and the comments provided by Nasc will be taken into account in finalising the review.”

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