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Governance of migrant integration in Ireland

Ireland has been traditionally a country of emigration; however, the economic boom of the 1990s immigration to the country. The first year to record positive net migration was 1995. From the early 2000s onwards, the number of new arrivals continued to increase following the 2004 EU enlargement, although it rapidly dwindled during the 2007-2009 recession period. Since 2011, immigration has been growing rapidly again.

Following Brexit, the number of third-country nationals (TCN) grew rapidly, from about 3 to 6% of the total population.

The statistics in the chart above are based on Eurostat's Non-national population by group of citizenship, 1 January 2020, with third-country nationals (TCNs) counting 297,200 and representing 6% of Ireland’s population. EU citizens made up 7%.

Migration statistics in Ireland is otherwise provided by the Central Statistics Office - see the Census 2016 and Population and Migration Estimates Report 2020, as well as the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) - see their 2018 report.

Non-Irish nationals

The Central Statistics Office additionally reported that in April 2020 there were an estimated 644 400 non-Irish citizens resident in Ireland, accounting for 12.9% of the total population. Since 2004, the majority of non-Irish nationals are EU citizens. However, following Brexit, the number of TCNs increased from 3 to 6% of the total population. Most TCNs come from the UK, Brazil, India, China and the US.

Visas

In 2018, there were over 140,500 visa applications in Ireland, an increase of almost 12% in comparison with the same figure in 2017. Of these applications in 2018, 10% (121,000) were ultimately granted visas.

Citizenship

In 2016 there were 104,784 people with dual nationality, an increase of 87.4% since 2012. The largest group were the Irish-American who accounted for 16.8% of all dual nationalities, followed by Irish-UK citizens at 14.7% and Irish-Polish at 8.8%. In 2018, over 8,000 people became Irish citizens.

Asylum

The Irish Refugee Protection Programme accepted over ,.000 people into the country in 2018. There were 5,700 cases for international protection in progress at the end of 2018. The average length of time people spent in state-provided accommodation centres was 24 months in 2018.

Integration strategy

To foster the inclusion of migrants, Ireland set up its first national Migrant Integration Strategy in 2017, covering a four-year period. The strategy has been extended for an additional year until the end of 2021. The document targets all migrants, including refugees, and foresees actions involving all related governmental departments. Plans include the improvement of the quality of integration services through interpretation support and the training of related service providers. In term of employment, one of the goals is to reach a rate of at least 1% of civil servants being made up of people from minority communities.

Prior to the strategy, in 2008, Ireland published a Statement on Integration Strategy and Diversity Management which set out the key principles for successful integration:

  • partnership approach between the government and non-governmental organisations
  • strong link between integration policy and wider state social inclusion measures
  • clear public policy focus that avoids the creation of parallel communities
  • commitment to effective local delivery mechanisms that align services to migrants with those for indigenous communities

The country also had an Intercultural Education Strategy for the period 2010-2015 and a Second National Intercultural Health Strategy for the period 2018-2023.

Integration programme

Since September 2015, Ireland has been implementing an integration programme for refugees who arrive through the EU relocation or resettlement schemes and were accepted under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. The programme includes language and civic education courses for cultural orientation, but no vocational training.

The programme also provides:

  • accommodation in Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres and dedicated housing, once refugee status is confirmed
  • free childcare wherever possible to allow adults to attend the language and orientation courses
  • a card entitling beneficiaries to free medical care in public hospitals as well as an assigned doctor
  • an assigned resettlement worker and an intercultural support worker from local authorities.

Evaluation

Since 2010, comprehensive evaluations of TCN's integration outcomes have been conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute. The latest Monitoring Report on Integration was published in 2016. It focussed on naturalisation (45% of non-EU migrants had Irish citizenship), employment (60% were economically active), education (the immigrant population showed lower reading and mathematics score than the rest), and poverty (21% of non-Irish citizens vs 16% of Irish citizens were living below the income poverty line). The same research institute dedicated a study to migrant labour market inclusion in 2008 and to diversity of Irish schools in 2009.

In addition, the 2017-2020 Migrant Integration Strategy foresees the monitoring of current school enrollment policies and the assessment of their impact. In 2019, a mid-term progress report on the implementation of the strategy was published.

Legislation

Law on foreigners

Irelands’ first aliens act was enacted in 1935. It was greatly amended by the Immigration Act of 1999 and 2004. While the earlier provides for the deportation, arrest and detention of "non-nationals", the latter provides for the entitlement to Irish citizenship of persons born to certain categories of non-Irish national parents.

Asylum law

The 2015 International Protection Act amended the law on foreigners and regulated the different steps of the asylum application procedure. The act replaced the refugee act 1996 and was intended to bring Ireland in line with its EU counterparts in relation to the single application procedure for asylum.

Integration law

Ireland does not have a self-standing integration law.

Citizenship Law

The citizenship law was adopted in 1956 and last amended in 2011 to, among other changes, facilitate applications from the civil partners of Irish citizens.

Anti-discrimination law

Anti-discrimination in Ireland is regulated by the Equal Status Act of 2000 and the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act of 1989.

Public authorities

In 2020, the Irish government restructured the agencies in charge of migration and integration. The Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration at the Department of Justice and Equality was dismantled, and issues related to the integration of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees were delegated to the new Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) within the Department of Justice now oversees the implementation of immigration legislation.

Local authorities support migrant integration through the implementation of local integration strategies. In 2020, 26 of 31 local authorities either had a current migrant integration strategy or were working towards the adoption of one. The new Migrant Integration Strategy further foresees the establishment of local networks aimed at reaching out to hard-to-reach migrant groups, helping them engage with relevant government departments.

Civil society

Ireland has a robust and strong civil society working towards the protection of migrants’ rights and the improvement of integration outcomes. Irish organisations have a stronger position than international organisations in integration matters.

There are 5 national Irish organisations, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, the Irish Refugee Council, the Migrant Rights Centre, Akidwa, and New Communities Partnership, and another 3 regional organisations, Doras, Cultur, NASC. In addition, there are also organisations focusing on providing specialised services such as support for victims of torture (Spirasi) or access to mental health (Cairde).

In recent years, many grassroots and migrant-led organisations and networks have emerged, adding their voices to advocacy efforts through increased migrant leadership. An example is the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland. See an EWSI analysis on migrant-led organisations. Civil societies working on different social justice issues such as the Irish Network Against Racism and the Children’s Rights Alliance are also also actively promoting migrants' rights.

Funding

EU funds

Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several EU funds. In addition, national and private funds are available to service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.

The information below will be updated once the 2021-2027 national programmes under the EU funds become available.

Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in Ireland

European Social Fund (ESF) in Ireland

Other Funds

Other public funding in Ireland

  • The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth - grants to national and regional projects to support integration with both EU and Irish governmental funding
  • Communities Integration Fund
  • Pobal administers and manages government and EU funding in the areas of social inclusion and equality, inclusive employment and enterprise, and early learning and care.

Private funding in Ireland

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