New campaign to help migrants integrate into Irish society

The Immigrant Council of Ireland has launched 'one-stop-shop' events

New campaign to help migrants integrate into Irish society

ICI campaigners highlight the voting power of new Irish citizens in 2011 | (Left to right) Chinese born Eva Pau, Indian born Dr Jasbir Singh Puri, Dr Lawrence Lee, Nigerian born Dr Theophilus Ejorh and Egyptian born Ali Selim | Image: RollingNews.ie

A new campaign is working to remove barriers which prevent migrants from participating in civic and political life here.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) say these must be removed to ensure "integration and community cohesion."

The group has launched a series of 'one-stop-shop' events aimed at increasing the civic and political participation of EU and non-EU migrants.

Ten events will take place between August 2016 and April 2017 in locations including Dublin, Dundalk, Navan, Newbridge, Carlow, Limerick, Kerry and Cork.

The first event was held at the end of July in Cork City, which the council says had a "very successful" turnout.

Some 17% of the Irish population are from a migrant background and, since 2011, over 90,000 people have acquired Irish citizenship.

The events are being run by the ICI and Nasc Ireland as part of the Participate project - a European project funded by the European Commission and the Open Society Foundation.

There are also similar initiatives in Belgium and the UK.

Low voter turnout

Joe O'Brien is integration outreach officer with the ICI.

"Voter turnout and political participation is low amongst new Irish communities. This reflects the fact that many migrants in Ireland are first-generation, who tend to be less politically active than second or third-generation migrants."

"Another factor feeding into low civic engagement is that the majority of migrants are of working age and live in suburban and commuter areas."

"The time constraints brought about by work and family demands mean people may find it challenging to move beyond the family home or workplace to get involved in their local communities."

Mr O'Brien said the aim of the events are to make it easier for migrants to get involved in their local communities.

"This project is seeking to get around the barriers often faced by migrants and to increase the civic and political participation of this new cohort of Irish citizens."

"Becoming a citizen, participating in elections and volunteering have all been internationally recognised as key elements to integration and community cohesion," he added.

Each event will involve local partners - including local volunteer centres, Citizens’ Information Services and Tidy Towns groups - that are looking for new members or participants to join in events.

The ICI and Nasc will also be providing information and practical guidance on issues such as applying for citizenship and registering to vote.

Jennifer DeWan, campaigns and communications Manager at Nasc, added: "Participation is a key to integration. People need to feel that they are engaging in what’s happening in their communities to be able to feel a part of it."

"This project is also a great opportunity to work closely with other organisations and community groups, especially migrant-led organisations, to ensure that the message going out about the importance of participation is being heard by as many people as possible."