Future Success of Ireland Depends on Immigration; an Opportunity to Be Grasped
Byline: SISTER STANISLAUS KENNEDY Chairman Immigrant Council of Ireland
THE Immigrant Council of Ireland is a national agency, working for the rights and entitlements of immigrants through information, legal aid and advocacy.
Since I became chairman I have seen an alarming increase of more than 121 per cent per month in the number of people seeking our help during the four month period June to October 2003 (reaching a total of 2,283 for our first year in operation).
The rapid growth in numbers accessing our services, the on-going fear and confusion created by recent Government decisions and the campaign of deportation now underway all confirm the need for widespread public debate about the kind of society we want in Ireland in the future.
As the Irish economy grows again and 23,000 new jobs need to be filled next year - many by immigrants - we should be seeing them as long-term assets to our country.
Within the past decade Ireland has changed in a way that would have been unimaginable even 15 years ago. Within the past decade Ireland has become a prosperous, wealthy, successful and confident nation.
As this new Ireland emerged, poverty has certainly reduced but so too has the gap between the poor and the non poor widened. This new Ireland has radically changed in other ways too, we have moved from one of the most homogeneous predictable countries in the EU and one of very high emigration to one that has almost the highest rate of inward migration in the EU today.
For the most part, this change was not anticipated and not planned for and policies had not been developed to deal with it. The Immigrant Council of Ireland which is just one year old was established to respond to the needs of the immigrant community with three clear objectives: to provide information, advice and legal aid to immigrants.
What seemed originally a very straightforward thing to do, very quickly became clear to me as a very complex issue. One on which the only public debate on the issue was in the area of asylum.
There were no immigration policies. What we had and have is a piecemeal, ad hoc approach to immigration with emphasis on control and meeting the demands of the economy rather than upholding the rights and meeting the needs of immigrants and their families. Immigrants were seen as economic units rather than human beings, as joining our economy rather than our society and there was a belief that it was a short-term situation.
It is now very clear to us at the Immigrant Council that immigration is a permanent reality and that Ireland needs to develop a long-term strategic approach to it. …