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Irish General Election 2020 - What do parties say about immigration and integration?

Ireland has announced a snap election to take place on Sunday, 9 February 2020. All major political parties included the topics of immigration and integration in their election manifestos. This is a significant change from the recent local and European elections, where these topics did not feature significantly in most political programmes.

Labour, Social Democrats, the Green Party and People Before Profit have the most developed political programmes on migration and integration. The two main political parties historically, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, include the topics to a lesser degree. Sinn Féin, which currently leads the polls, offers only a general statement on immigration and commits to introducing laws against hate crimes and access to healthcare for asylum seekers.

Two political parties that are considered to have an anti-immigrant stance did not issue election manifestos but include immigration as a topic in their general political programme, considering it to be a threat to national identity and resources like housing

Two of the main topics featuring in the political programmes—hate crimes laws and the direct provision system—are issues that have been subject to lengthy campaigns and vivid public discourse. There seems to be a general consensus among parties on the need to introduce hate crimes laws, with the Green Party also looking to revive a National Action Plan Against Racism, which had expired in 2008. The subject of direct provision is more divisive, as some parties have committed to ending the system while others wish to reform it.

Some topics addressed in the manifestos are very progressive and appear in mainstream political programmes for the first time—for example, the proposal to extend voting rights to all migrants with permanent residence or regularisation for the undocumented. Three parties also hope to reverse the 2004 referendum that abolished the right to Irish citizenship through birth on the island of Ireland.

While most of the proposed actions—including language support, reduction of citizenship application fees or an independent system of appeals for immigration decisions—fill current gaps in the immigration and integration system, some proposals have already been implemented to some degree as part of the National Integration Strategy 2017-2020 or the Arts Council’s Equality, Human Rights & Diversity Policy, such as an awareness campaign on voting rights.

Other important areas of integration like health care, access to the labour market and education appear in the programmes in a limited capacity, leaving a big gap in addressing the integration needs of new communities.

Below is an overview of the main positions of political parties on migration and integration-related topics for the 2020 Irish general elections.

Theme

Action

Political parties

Voting Rights

Voting rights for all migrants with long-term residency status

Labour

Social Democrats

People Before Profit

Voting rights for EU migrants

Green Party

Awareness campaign on voting rights

Fianna Fáil

Citizenship

Citizenship rights to children born in Ireland

Labour

Social Democrats

People Before Profit

Revision of citizenship fees (4th highest in EU)

Labour

Regularisation scheme for undocumented

Adults and minors

Labour

Social Democrats

Green Party

Minors

Fine Gael

Direct Provision

Ending the direct provision system

Labour

People Before Profit

Social Democrats

Green Party

Interim support measures to current direct provision residents

Social Democrats

Green Party

Reforming the direct provision system

Fianna Fáil

Fine Gael

Hate Crime

Introduction of hate crimes laws

Labour

Green Party

Fianna Fáil

Sinn Féin

Social Democrats

People Before Profit (only in relation to anti-LGBT hate crimes)

Introduction of hate speech laws

Fine Gael

Green Party

National Action Plan Against Racism

Green Party

Integration

New national migrant integration strategy

Fine Gael

Green Party

Social Democrats

Local integration strategies

Fianna Fáil

Social Democrats

Language support

Green Party

Setting up a National Expert Body for Minority Ethnic Communities, Integration and Interculturalism

Green Party

Setting up local cross-cultural community forums

People Before Profit

Supporting diversity in arts

Labour

Access to health care for asylum seeking/refugee women

Green Party

Access to health care for people in direct provision

Sinn Féin

Work

Introducing sectoral work permits

Fine Gael

Improving recognition of qualifications

People Before Profit

Strengthening legal status of au pairs

People Before Profit

Legal

Improving asylum process (shorter application processing time)

Fine Gael

Early legal support for asylum seekers

Green Party

Improving family reunification

People Before Profit

Introducing independent appeals mechanisms for immigration decisions

Social Democrats