Is there racism in Ireland

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Irial Glynn

To person

Irial Glynn is a lecturer in the Faculty of History at University College Dublin, Ireland. His research focuses on the history of migration after 1945. [email protected]

Emigration has always dominated Ireland's history. Over the past 25 years, however, Ireland has grown from a largely homogeneous country to an increasingly heterogeneous one, with almost a fifth of its residents being born abroad.

The Integration and Inclusion Conference of the Irish Integration Council opens in Dublin 2019. Almost a fifth of Ireland's residents were born abroad. (& copy picture-alliance, empics | Brian Lawless)

Emigration history, immigration news

Until the mid-1990s, Ireland was generally considered a country of emigration. Compared to all other European countries, more than twice as many people emigrated from Ireland between 1850 and the outbreak of the First World War in relation to the total population. [1] In 1922 the island was divided into what would become the Republic of Ireland (referred to as "Ireland") - which comprised about five-sixths of the island - and Northern Ireland, which remained part of the United Kingdom. This contribution is limited to developments within the Republic of Ireland.

Even after the division, emigration continued to dominate here. Initially, the United States was the main destination for Irish emigrants, but after the United States set strict immigration quotas in the 1920s and the Great Depression began in the 1930s, Great Britain became the most popular destination. In the 1950s Ireland was, besides the GDR, the only country in Europe where the population declined as a result of massive emigration. [2] As the economic situation in Ireland improved in the 1960s and 1970s, emigration decreased. But the onset of serious economic problems in the 1980s again saw hundreds of thousands turn their backs on the country. Great Britain remained the most popular destination country during this period, but many Irish people also went to the United States (and often stayed there without a permit), to Australia and Western Europe.

Current development of migration

Up until the 1990s, immigration to Ireland consisted mainly of people who had previously emigrated from Ireland and returned to their homes and a small number of British nationals. In the 1970s, some Dutch, German and French lifestyle migrants also moved to Ireland's rough but beautiful west coast. [3] However, due to the stagnating economy, there was initially no urgent need for foreign workers. That changed in the mid-1990s, with an unprecedented period of economic growth up until 2007, which made Ireland known as the "Celtic Tiger". This economic prosperity attracted new immigrants, and Ireland accepted a greater proportion of immigrants than many western European countries that had experienced immigration for several decades. While fewer than 55,000 Irish residents were born outside the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom in 1991, that number rose almost ten-fold to over half a million by 2016. [4] Today, in Ireland, 17.3 percent of the population were born abroad and 11.6 percent of the population have citizenship other than Irish. [5]

Since the mid-1990s, most migrants have come to Ireland either in search of asylum or work. Asylum applications increased significantly between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s (see Figure 1), while labor migration increased significantly later, particularly with the enlargement of the EU in 2004. There were also other important movements such as family and student migration from a number of countries including the arrival of young and skilled migrants from a variety of global multinational corporations' locations choosing Ireland for its European operations for its low corporate taxes, such as: B. Apple, Google and Facebook. Many Irish and foreign citizens left the country as a result of the 2008 economic crisis, but a significant proportion of Irish emigrants later returned. The following sections focus mainly on asylum seekers and refugees as well as migrant workers, as they represent the most important groups of immigrants.

Asylum seekers and refugees

Figure 1: Asylum applications in Ireland 1993-2019 ( Graphic for download) License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (bpb)
Between the early 1990s and 2020, over 100,000 asylum seekers from non-EU countries came to Ireland. The number of annual asylum applications rose from 31 in 1991 to over 10,000 in 2000 (see Figure 1). At the end of the 1990s, the number of asylum applications exceeded the number of new work permits for migrant workers. Romania and Nigeria were prominent countries of origin in the 1990s and early 2000s. While there used to be a considerable number of applications from states of the former European Soviet bloc, this number fell after the accession of twelve new countries in 2004 and 2007. More recently, Nigeria, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia and Albania have been major countries of origin for asylum seekers in Ireland. [6]

At the end of the 1990s, the state infrastructures had difficulties processing all asylum applications. In response, and in the style of its Western European neighbors, Ireland introduced a direct provision policy. As part of this policy, the state distributed asylum seekers to collective shelters across the country, where they were given food and a small weekly allowance. There has been repeated criticism of this system over the past twenty years. The Irish Ombudsman described it in 2013 as "harmful to the health, well-being and life chances of those who endure these conditions". Critical voices often emphasize that many asylum seekers have to stay in poor accommodation for long periods of time. The small weekly pocket money remained unchanged from 2000 to 2019 (€ 19.10 for adults and € 15.60 for each dependent child), although the cost of living increased significantly during this period. [7]

Unlike most other EU countries, children born in Ireland to foreign parents were eligible for Irish citizenship from birth in the 1990s and early 2000s (Ius soli ). Based on the Irish constitutional right of children to belong to a family, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that foreign parents of an Irish child "have the right, on their children's behalf, to choose the place of residence of their minor children". [8] This enabled foreign families to stay in Ireland even if their asylum application was denied. The 2004 citizenship referendum, which received a majority of the public's support, changed this policy. New legislation, which is still in force, stipulated that a person born on the island of Ireland as a child of non-Irish nationals would only be eligible for citizenship if one of the parents had been in at least the previous four years for had legally resided in Ireland for a period of three years. [9] As part of this change, the government has granted permission to all parents of children born in Ireland before December 31, 2004 to reside in the country. On this basis, almost 16,700 asylum seekers received a residence permit. [10]

From 2003 the number of asylum applications decreased significantly. This reflected a general EU trend. In 2015/2016, in contrast to many other EU countries, Ireland and the United Kingdom did not experience an enormous increase in asylum applications from Syria and other countries, as it had become more difficult in the previous years to travel to the common travel area ("Common Travel Area ") from Ireland and the United Kingdom. Both had decided against joining the Schengen area.

Although the state granted refugee status to only about 10 percent of asylum seekers in the late 1990s and 2000s, the vast majority of applicants managed to stay in Ireland as only a small proportion of those who were denied refugee status could be deported had been.

Migrant workers

In the 2000s, asylum became less important in Irish migration policy. This was primarily due to the sharp increase in economic migration that occurred during those years. The huge intake of immigrants in Ireland was in large part a direct response to an acute labor shortage created by the country's rapid economic growth. This was also evident in the unemployment rate, which fell from over 15 percent in 1993 to just over four percent in 2000.

Figure 2: Newly issued work permits 1999-201 ( Graphic for download) License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (bpb)
By 2003, local employers were able to hire as many non-EU workers as they wanted, regardless of country of origin, job and skill level required. [11] Since Ireland had no ties to former colonies, it accepted migrants from various countries. About three out of four work permits were issued for low-paying or low-skill jobs. [12] The migrants mainly worked in the service sector, especially in the catering trade. The number of new work permits issued each year rose rapidly after 1999, before falling in the early 2000s, as the state gave priority to recruiting citizens from the new EU countries as part of the eastward expansion of the EU (see Figure 2). . It has risen again recently, but not to the same extent as in the early 2000s.

The enlargement of the EU in 2004 guaranteed the citizens of the ten new member states (EU-10) freedom of movement. This sparked the most significant demographic change in Ireland's modern history. Between 2004 and 2007, almost 400,000 people from the EU-10 registered to work in Ireland. [13] By contrast, in 2002 only about 8,000 nationals from these countries were resident in Ireland. [14] In relative terms, this means that the country experienced a population growth of around ten percent in just three years through immigration. Unlike most EU-15 countries, Ireland gave new EU citizens full and immediate access to the labor market. Migrants from Poland, the largest state that joined the EU in 2004, were the most common among the newcomers. While the number of British immigrants remained stable at just over 100,000 between 2002 and 2016, the number of Poles living in Ireland rose from just over 2,000 in 2002 to over 122,000 in 2016. Polish migrants thus overtook British nationals as the largest Immigrant group in Ireland. Although immigration from the EU-15 countries also increased in the same period, it remained low compared to immigration from the new EU countries. For example, as shown in Table 1, in 2016 about as many people from Lithuania lived in Ireland as from Spain, Italy and France combined. [15]
When Ireland developed its liberal labor policy for new EU citizens in 2004, the system for issuing work permits for non-EU citizens became more selective. In 2007 Ireland introduced a "green card" system that allowed qualified migrants from non-EU countries who wanted to work in industries such as healthcare, IT and finance to immigrate to Ireland. [16] Other occupational categories, on the other hand, were excluded from the possibility of obtaining a work permit, including many jobs in the construction industry. In these sectors, employers were encouraged to give preference to migrant workers from EU countries. [17] While these changes resulted in a decline in work permits for migrants from countries such as South Africa and European non-EU countries after 2004, the number of permits for immigrants from other countries such as India and the Philippines increased significantly.

Figure 3: Migration balance in Ireland 1987-2019 (in thousands) ( Graphic for download) License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (bpb)
The outbreak of the economic crisis at the end of 2008 led some migrants to return to their countries of origin. Irish citizens also began to emigrate again in significant numbers. Nonetheless, many immigrants chose to stay in Ireland and the number of those who left the country was offset by new immigrants. [18] As a result of these developments, Ireland's immigrant population no longer grew at the same rate as it did in the years immediately following EU enlargement. Figure 3 shows net migration to Ireland, i.e. the difference between the number of people who have left the country and the number of people who have immigrated to Ireland.


In 2006 the National Economic and Social Council (National Economic and Social Council, NESC) the first major official study examining the impact of immigration on Ireland. The report suggested that the state should be proactive rather than reactive in integration. [19] Following the parliamentary elections in May 2007, a new government program included a number of commitments derived from proposals made in the 2006 NESC report, such as plans to develop national integration policies and establish a ministry responsible for integration. In 2008 the newly appointed Minister of State for Integration presented another important report entitled "Migration Nation" (Migration nation) in front. Referring to Ireland's past emigration, the report found Ireland "to have a unique moral, intellectual and practical ability to adapt to immigration experiences". [20] According to the report, the state is taking an intercultural approach to immigration. He called for ongoing dialogue and interaction between immigrant groups and the Irish state in order to achieve successful integration.

The report also contained
  1. the recommendation to provide a route to citizenship for immigrants,
  2. calling for resources to support diversity strategies by local authorities,
  3. the call for stronger legislative measures to combat discrimination,
  4. a proposal for new structures to promote integration,
  5. Suggestions for more targeted support for dealing with diversity in schools, especially through language training. [21]
Unfortunately, many of these plans were thwarted by the economic crisis that began later that year. When the state faced the consequences of various economic and social problems, many of the proposed integration measures were abandoned or ad acta placed. Ultimately, the most notable development in integration policy remains the significant increase in non-EU citizens who obtained Irish citizenship through naturalization. In 2013, 97.6 percent of the nearly 30,000 applications for naturalization were approved, with Nigeria, India, and the Philippines being the top three countries of origin for new Irish nationals. [22] Ireland allows dual citizenship; In 2016, over 100,000 residents of the country were citizens of another country in addition to Irish, with people with Irish and US passports forming the largest group.

The immigrant population is spread across all Irish cities, towns and villages. Almost every fifth resident in Galway and Dublin is of a different nationality than Irish.On average, immigrants in Ireland's cities make up about 15 percent of the population. [23] At the same time, racism and discrimination are present in Irish society, especially against people from sub-Saharan Africa. [24] Outright hostility towards immigration is rarely expressed, in part because mainstream political parties tend not to address the issue. [25] In addition, immigration is embedded in a "narrative on development-oriented nation building" which suggests that immigration enables sustainable economic growth. [26] It is unclear whether the public and political atmosphere will remain that way in the future.