Many immigrants consider Ireland permanent home
DESPITE a perception that migrants are "going home" because of the recession, for many, Ireland is now their permanent home.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) said last year was one of its busiest yet with 50,000 people accessing its website or using its telephone helpline.
The biggest issue causing concern for those contacting the council was residency rights for parents of Irish citizen children.
The Zambrano ruling in the European Court of Justice last March, which said a non-EU parent of an EU citizen child had the right to reside and work in the 27 member states, sparked a flood of enquiries to the helpline and website.
Denise Charlton, chief executive of the ICI, said that the ruling had an immediate impact on its information services.
"The court's ruling was made on March 8. On that date we received nine times more visits to the information section of our website than we do on an average day.
"The following day, March 9, was the busiest day on our website for the entire year -- 1,173 people accessed the information section of the site that day, compared to an average daily visitor rate of 111."
Of the almost 9,000 telephone enquiries received by the council last year, 1,333 were on the Zambrano case.
Other common queries last year related to citizenship, work permits, family reunification, visitor visas and long-term residency.
People of 145 different nationalities used its helpline service, the most common being Nigerian, Indian, Pakistani, South African and Chinese.
While those accessing its website were largely within Ireland, it also attracted visitors located in the UK, the US, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.
Ms Charlton said that despite the current economic climate, many migrants were remaining in Ireland.
"In recent years, because of the recession, there has been a perception in Ireland that migrants are 'going home'.
"But our statistics show that demand for information about migrants' rights and entitlements remains strong, and we know -- through our ongoing contact with migrants throughout the country -- that many of them have made Ireland their permanent home," she added.
"We know immigration is now a permanent -- and positive -- reality in Ireland, and we remain strongly committed to assisting migrants to navigate the immigration system and integrate successfully into Irish life."
However Ms Charlton said funding cuts had meant the ICI has had to reduce the hours of its helpline (01 6740200), which is now open Monday and Tuesday, from 10am-1pm, and Thursday from 2pm-5pm.