State has more to do on immigration
The Sunday Independent today publishes research by way of a Sunday Independent/Kantar Millward Brown opinion poll, which shows that Irish people are adapting well to what has been, by international comparison, a rapid transformation of the country to diversity. The research adds to other professional surveys of attitudes, conducted at both European and domestic level, which indicate that Irish people have a high level of day-to-day contact with our newcomer population and a lower incidence of racially motivated attacks on migrant individuals. This is to be welcomed, particularly in an age when reaction to immigration in Europe and the United States has taken a decidedly unwelcome turn.
Today's research shows that more than half of the population would not object to the location of refugee centres in their own community; broad acknowledgement that a more cosmopolitan society leads to a better society, and broad consensus that non/new Irish make an important contribution towards the economy. However, other findings indicate there are causes for concern. There are significant worries that terrorists may enter the country from troubled areas abroad and, also, many feel that the Islamic community do not do enough to encourage Muslims to adapt to the Irish way of life. There is also strong support for local residents to be involved in planning preparations with local authorities when refugees are being located in their area.
The changes in migration flows relating to Ireland over a relatively short period have been remarkable. The pattern of centuries that saw the Irish spread all over the world has dramatically changed. Some estimates suggest that 12pc of the population here is, or will soon be, immigrants. This creates a challenge for policymakers and society in general. It is a challenge that is being met by and large, but not as fully as it should be. Integration indicators include labour-force participation, language acquisition, education continuance, home ownership, intermarriage and a healthy naturalisation rate. Progress has been made in Ireland under some, but not all, of these headings. There remains an issue of the lack of available data on new communities. Asylum-seekers have spent years living in institutional settings that were designed to be a short-term solution under a reception system known as Direct Provision. Direct Provision is intended to provide for their needs as they await decisions on their asylum application. It directly provides essential services, medical care and accommodation and board, with three meals a day provided at set times. However, a lot more needs to be done to help in the transition from Direct Provision into mainstream society. For example, permission to study and work before leaving the system is required. President Michael D Higgins has also questioned why reform of the Direct Provision system was missing from discussions on the formation of Government. Immigration is a relatively recent phenomenon in Ireland, although has been continuing apace for more than a decade. At the same time, most other European countries are dealing with second and third-generation issues. It is likely that immigration to Europe will continue for the foreseeable future. Therefore, integration policy must address the security and social cohesion issues that will inevitably arise, as have again been identified in our opinion poll today.