The Chinese dominate the pay-at-residence system

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“What we are saying clearly is that we are not in a position to guarantee everyone an accommodation offer,” he told RTÉ. Morning Ireland.

It was a stark admission – an admission that shows how strained Ireland currently is in terms of immigration and housing. And it’s not just the Ukrainian conflict that is sending people to Irish shores.

Figures were up from other countries, Georgia being a notable example, long before Vladimir Putin invaded its neighbor on February 24, exceeding expected demand at a knot rate.

The Russian war in Ukraine has certainly complicated the issue – more than 50,000 Ukrainians have since sought asylum in Ireland.

Up to five times more refugees entered Ireland in 2022 than the numbers who came here in previous years. This would be a difficult trend to sustain, even in a country with an adequate housing supply.

But Ireland is currently stuck in the worst housing crisis it has seen in living memory. It’s a difficult situation to manage, to put it mildly.

However, the situation is not the same for all migrants, which brings us to the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) under the benevolent title.

Unlike direct provision, this immigration program was not transferred to the Ministry of Children in October 2020, but remained with the Ministry of Justice, which first introduced it in 2012.

At the time, Ireland was in a sorry state. Bailed out by the Troika, in the face of a housing market crash and the endless bloodshed resulting from the €64 billion hole punched in the economy by the banks, the PII undoubtedly seemed like a no-brainer. A short, sharp injection of cash into the economy in exchange for residence for wealthy individuals.

What exactly is the Immigrant Investor Program? This is a migrant program for millionaires only. Or, as one senior official told us, “it’s essentially citizenship for sale.”

Applicants must be from a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA). They must have a net worth of at least 2 million euros, and they must be willing to invest a minimum of 1 million euros for at least three years, and this money cannot come from loans or any kind debt – it must come from the investors’ own resources.

Other prerequisites are that each applicant must be free of criminal convictions in any country and be of “good character”.

The IIP has four streams through which each applicant can invest their funds: investments in Irish companies (minimum €1 million); sums invested in investment funds approved by the Central Bank (minimum €1 million); Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs – the controversial vehicles that started the trend for business owners in the Irish rental market – minimum investment of €2m); and endowment (a minimum philanthropic contribution – as opposed to an investment – ​​of €400,000 placed in a project of public benefit for Ireland).

Two-year residency

In return, the investor gets a two-year residency in Ireland, which can be extended for a further three years and then a further five years after mandatory state examinations.

Ireland has received just under €1.2bn in inward investment under the scheme to date – the most lucrative year being 2017, when €251m of investment was approved . Some €132 million, via 192 applications, has been approved so far in 2022.

The Justice Department said the fund was originally created to “encourage foreign investment for the creation of business and job opportunities in the state.”

He added, however, that it is “difficult” to assess the effectiveness of the program because the various investments have not reached their full maturity.

Although the program was set up because of Ireland’s economic needs at the time of its inception, it did not bear significant fruit for several years.

Only 126 applications were approved in the first five years. That doesn’t mean the department was necessarily picky — applications didn’t begin to increase significantly until 2016, when applications for admission soared from 75 to 334 in just 12 months.

If this jump seems notable, the increase in applications observed so far in 2022 raises eyebrows: some 812 official applications had been received at the end of September, an increase of more than 200% on the 258 received for the whole of 2021.

It’s unclear whether this spike in applications has anything to do with the government currently reviewing the findings of a review of the program.

So where do these wealthy investors come from? There is a one-word answer: China.

Some 1,613 applications have been accepted to date (an approval rate of 52%, although the actual figure is probably much higher, since the number of approvals does not take into account the turnaround time for due diligence) — 1,511, an astonishing 94%, of these requests came from Chinese nationals.

Of the remaining applicants, 31 were from the United States, 12 from Vietnam, five from Saudi Arabia and four from South Africa, with the remaining 50 designated as “rest of the world”.

The ministry has made it clear that it has no influence on the projects in which the various investors invest their money – this is already decided before the application. More than half of the applications received so far – and at €703m, 60% of the investments – have gone to Irish companies.

Lucky Khambule of the Asylum Seekers Movement in Ireland described the scheme as basically meaning “if you have money in Ireland then you are good to go”.

Interestingly, a tiny number of investments – only six – have been made in REITs.

Candidates are approved by the minister responsible for justice after recommendation by a college of senior civil servants and civil servants who meet at least four times a year.

Although little is known about the details of the investments, some clarification has been made as to the nature of some of the payments made by, of all organisations, the GAA, whose county councils have endlessly benefited from the section program staffing.

At least three Leinster counties – Meath, Louth and Kildare – are known to have obtained or attempted to obtain funds from the scheme. In early 2021 Meath officials announced that €400,000 had been injected into the redevelopment of Páirc Tailteann in Navan through the PII.

That’s nothing compared to what Louth County Council, via local independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick, has managed – with just under €15million to pour into its new £20million county stadium euros to Dundalk via 37 separate investors.

Mr Fitzpatrick denied there was a question of ‘passports or citizenship or anything like that’, adding that one of the benefits for investors is being able to send their children to university in Ireland while they are away. stay.

“Win-win for everyone”

“I personally think it’s a win-win situation for everyone,” he told Newstalk. “Everything is above the board. They will not be gangsters; they’re not going to launder money.

However, Lucky Khambule of the Movement for Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) described the scheme as effectively meaning “if you have money in Ireland then you are good to go”.

He said the IIP “doesn’t make sense” at this time of global crisis.

“No one knows about this program in our community, it’s a shock,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to do something like this at a time when people with nothing are in desperate need of protection and shelter, whose lives have been destroyed.”

“They are economic migrants,” he said of the IIP investors. “I think you have to be logged in to enter a program like this.”

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