11 March 2006

Immigration policies bad for Irish workers, report warns

Irish Times

Kathryn Holmquist
11 March 2006

Immigration policies could cause serious difficulties for Irish workers if there is an economic downturn, a new report has warned. It urges the State to take control of immigration policy and stop allowing employers to decide who comes here for work.

"The lack of effective policies and thinking to protect the employment prospects of local workers in a less favourable economic environment is a serious weakness in Ireland's current labour immigration system," states the draft report commissioned by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

The NESC commissioned the report from the International Organisation for Migration, (IOM), which has 116 member countries including Ireland. The IOM was set up in 1951 as an inter-governmental organisation to resettle displaced Europeans, refugees and migrants. It now encompasses a variety of migration management activities throughout the world.

The second draft of the report says Ireland lacks a "coherent" immigration policy. Increasing numbers of unskilled migrants are entering the State to work for the minimum wage - yet it is unclear if a lack of local labour justifies this, according to the report.

Illegal working and exploitative work practices are being allowed to continue unmonitored and unpunished, threatening to reduce wages and conditions for Irish workers, it continues. Migrants masquerading as international students are significantly affecting the economy, particularly students from China attending unregulated educational institutions.

Without a proper system of data collection and collation, the report says it is almost impossible for the Government to analyse how many migrants are here, where they are from, how long they are staying and what they are working at.

In the past five years, 750,000 PPS numbers have been given to migrants from the 25 EU states and from outside the EU, but the State does not know how many of these have stayed and how many family members have joined them, it concludes. Computer systems of the four Government departments that collect data are incompatible, making tracking the immigrants impossible. The economy needs the best workers and must encourage them to remain here, the report says. Such highly skilled workers are unlikely to be satisfied with temporary work permits and should instead be offered permanent residency status on arrival in the country, it advises.

The report is titled Managing Migration in Ireland: A Social and Economic Analysis.

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