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Why the new Irish are staying put -- despite the recession

While the economic crisis has hit all sections of society, it has been particularly cruel to the huge numbers of immigrant workers who arrived here after the enlargement of the EU in 2004.

In the past decade, 42,702 PPS numbers were issued to Latvians by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

And, with almost 4,000 PPS numbers processed for Latvians last year, and a further 564 already this year, it seems the slow but steady trickle into Ireland is set to continue.

The Latvian Embassy estimates that the current number now living here stands at approximately 28,000.

Jelena Lobzova, First Secretary at the embassy, explained: "We do know that some Latvians have gone back home and we have information that some have gone to countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

"It's very cheap to buy property in Latvia and it's possible for people to buy land and start a business such as a farm, so I expect that may be a situation for some Latvians returning home."


Faced with an equally dismal economic situation in their home country, many Latvians have decided to stay here to avail of a more favourable social welfare system. Ms Lobzova revealed: "Social assistance is not as big in Latvia as it is in Ireland.

"I think many Latvians can live here better than they can at home. For example, if we have a family, a husband and wife, and one of them loses their job, financially it is still better for them to remain in Ireland."

Unfortunately for many Latvians, the task of setting up a business, buying a house or even applying for a job can be an impossible feat thanks to language barriers and unfamiliar systems. This is where the Latvian Society of Ireland comes into its own.

Chairman Janis Kargins set up the society in 2005, as a means of maintaining Latvian culture and building a community in Ireland.

He revealed: "When people come to us, we give them as much information as we can. We can't find jobs for them, but we can tell them where to go." The society meets every second week in Dublin, while social events are listed on its website www.lbi.ie.

The Latvian community in the city has also developed a choir, a folk dance group, a theatre group, football teams and a weekend school focusing on the Latvian language. They are also served by two Latvian priests.

There's no doubting the vibrancy of the community -- but there's also no denying the impact of the recession.