Ireland has been ranked sixth out of 52 countries in a new report on immigrant integration policies, but serious issues remain in relation to family reunification, working rights, and permanent residency.
The report, published by the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), focuses on integration policies in eight key areas: education, labour market, family reunion, political participation, permanent residence, access to nationality, anti-discrimination, and health.
Ireland’s MIPEX score for 2019 was 64 out of a maximum 100, and slightly above western Europe’s average.
The average score when all 52 countries were taken into account was 50.
The report says that immigrants to Ireland have seen more improvements to integration policies compared to most other MIPEX countries.
Since Ireland started to implement its Migrant Integration Strategy in 2017, the country has increased by five points on the MIPEX scale. Internationally, the average country increased by just two points from 2014 to 2019.
The report also said that Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada are becoming more attractive global destinations, taking the place of Australia, the UK, and the US as they go down in the MIPEX rankings.
The report highlighted some positive steps Ireland had taken, including measures to bring migrants into the teacher workforce, support for research on migrant health, civil society’s information policy on political participation targeted toward migrants, and anti-discrimination policies in education.
Areas where Ireland is doing well include health, political participation, and access to nationality.
However, Ireland falls down when it comes to labour market access, family reunification, and permanent residency.
Labour market mobility was Ireland’s lowest-scoring area, at just over 20 on MIPEX.
“Scoring far below average, Ireland offers much less support than any other EU country to secure equal opportunities on the labour market,” read the report.
“Non-EU citizens with the right to work do not enjoy equal access to all types of jobs, education, training or social protection. Newcomers also lack sufficient support to get their foreign qualifications recognised or gain new professional and language skills.”
Ireland scored slightly below average for family reunification, due to its discretionary and insecure legal mechanisms.
“Although the 2013 INIS Policy Document improved the clarity and security for separated non-EU families, Ireland’s policy is still far below the standards in EU and other English-speaking countries.”
With regards to permanent residency, the report said just 1% of non-EU residents are able to settle as long-term residents in Ireland, under some of the most restrictive and discretionary policies in the EU.
“Unless they become Irish citizens, non-EU citizens only have two options to secure their future and basic rights in Ireland (long-term residency and Without Condition As To Time Endorsements), but neither is a real solution; behind the rather favourable requirements on paper lies a highly discretionary and uncertain procedure.
“Ireland’s Migrant Integration Strategy has yet to deliver on the promised statutory scheme for Long-Term Residency, which exists in nearly all other MIPEX countries,” the report warned.
While Ireland has improved in some areas, the report warned there is still more work to do.
“While immigrants benefit from Ireland’s areas of strength on integration, they do not enjoy equal rights and opportunities in all areas of life, particularly in terms of employment, education and family life.”
The report also said that the Irish immigration system makes it harder for non-EU newcomers to secure their career, family life, and residence in Ireland, when compared to most other MIPEX countries.
The report added that non-EU residents regularly face problems of administrative discretion, bureaucracy, and uncertainty about their permits and legal status.
“These problems in the Irish immigration system have gone unresolved and even exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The report also stated that while ministerial discretion can be utilised positively for an application for citizenship, it can also lead to a lack of clarity and transparency in decision making.
“This lack of transparency is exacerbated by the lack of an appeals mechanism to challenge negative decisions.”
Ireland was also not providing an appropriate response to victims of racism, according to the report.
Issues included the lack of comprehensive hate crime and hate speech legislation, the lack of a national action plan against racism, and the fact that there is no well-resourced and accessible victim support service.
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