Tithe an Oireachtais
An Comhchoiste um Ghnóthaí Eorpacha
An Tríú Tuarascáil Déag
Tuarascáil maidir le Beartas Imirce agus Lánpháirtíochta in Éirinn
Houses of the Oireachtas
Joint Committee on European Affairs
Report on Migration and Integration Policy in Ireland
The past decade has witnessed a remarkable change in Irish society. In this relatively short space of time our relatively homogeneous native population has been transformed into a multi-ethnic community, with approximately 10 per cent of the population now foreign-born.
Happily, the Celtic Tiger economy has been able to provide employment for most of the new arrivals without any increase in unemployment. But the surge of immigration, unexpected as it was, has brought with it other problems which need to be addressed in a constructive fashion as a matter of urgency.
The challenge that faces us now is how best to ensure that these new workers and their families become truly integrated into Irish society if they are planning to remain in our country.
As a contribution to helping our political leaders to meet this challenge the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs has looked at best practices in a number of European countries which have far longer experience than Ireland in integrating immigrants.
The Committee’s main conclusions from this study are that a single Government Department be given overall responsibility for all matters relating to the integration of immigrants.
The Committee also proposes the establishment of a National Forum on Integration, chaired by the designated Government Department, to provide for a permanent dialogue between central Government, local authorities, immigrants’ representatives, NGOs and similar groups.
The report also recommends the setting up of one-stop shops in larger cities and towns where immigrants can obtain information about employment opportunities as well as guidance to enable them to integrate fully in Irish society.
I would like to thank the Members of the Joint Committee for their contributions to its ongoing debate on this important issue, as well as the representatives of various organisations which have addressed it since its first report on migration was published in April 2006.
John Deasy T.D.
Chairman, Joint Committee on European Affairs
March 28, 2007
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Since the publication of its first report on Immigration in March 2005 the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs has held a number of meetings with experts in the field to consider how best to ensure that immigrants are fully integrated into Irish society.
As part of this exercise the Joint Committee commissioned a report on best practices in other EU member states and selected non-EU European countries.
At a final meeting on 28 March 2007 the Joint Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. John Deasy, TD, adopted the report and agreed to forward it to the Oireachtas, with the following recommendations:
1.The allocation to a single Government Department of overall responsibility for all matters relating to the integration of immigrants.
2.The establishment of a National Forum on Integration, chaired by the designated Government Department, to facilitate consultation and continuing dialogue between State representatives and bodies and recognised immigrant organisations.
3.The provision of an adequate annual budget to enable the designated Department to help finance organisations representing immigrants as well as Irish NGOs working in the field.
4.Prioritisation of one-stop-shops in larger urban centres to provide immigrants with information about State services, Irish history and customs, as well as immigrants’ own responsibilities and obligations vis-à-vis the State. These could be staffed by the designated Government Department and by local authorities, as well as by settled immigrants.
5.The provision of language classes for all new immigrants who require them, as well as instruction in Irish history and customs, and civic responsibility.
6.The establishment of a data base of immigrants’ skills to help them integrate into the labour market and to ensure that the professional or technical skills of better-educated immigrants are on record and available to prospective employers e.g. in the health sector.
Integrating Immigrants into Irish society: a comparative study of best practices in Europe
Over the past decade Ireland has been transformed from a country of emigration into a country of immigration. This phenomenon has been accentuated since the accession to the European Union of the Central and East European countries in May, 2004.
Although accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, it is generally reckoned that the population has increased by the arrival of around 400,000 foreigners, who now account for around 10 per cent of the population. A missing element in the statistics is the number of recent immigrants who have returned to their own countries.
An additional factor since the accession of Romania and Bulgaria on January 1, 2007 is Irish media reports suggesting that around 100 Romanians are arriving every day. Official figures indicate that in the first two weeks of January a total of 1,392 PPS numbers were issued to Romanians immigrants. The equivalent figure for Bulgarians is 47.
Contrary to fears expressed prior to the 2004 enlargement, it is now widely acknowledged that this influx has not so far been detrimental to existing Irish job-holders. Rather, the immigrants have been in general well-educated and, as such, a valued source of much-needed labour for the dynamic Celtic Tiger economy. Irish workers who have been displaced have by-and-large been able to move to other, and often more remunerative jobs.
Nor have the newcomers proved to be a burden on the State; on the contrary, their input to the economy in the form of their labour and the taxes they pay has helped to sustain the Exchequer. In the longer term, these predominantly young people and their next generation are likely to make an important contribution to the support of indigenous retirees as the host population ages. (Demands will however increase over time in this sector of the population, as will the natural ageing process and increases in service demands)
It was to be expected that a people with no experience of immigration should at the outset of this historic turn of events have expressed caution and in some cases hostility to these developments. However, a study by the National Action Plan Against Racism finds that acceptance of the new arrivals has improved and that there is growing contact between immigrants and Irish citizens.
On the other hand, ESRI surveys show that one in three immigrants claim to have been subjected to harassment and that one-fifth of immigrant job seekers encounter discrimination. The Equality Authority has found that female immigrants have experienced racism and sexist abuse.
Conditions for many immigrants are clearly less than ideal, not only in terms of their material well-being but also of their integration into Irish society. It is the latter issue that this report is designed to address.
This is an urgent matter. An Taoiseach warned on 7.11.2006, as reported in the Irish Times, that Ireland has only “a short period of time” to address racism and integration issues before they become a problem for a second generation of immigrants. Mr. Ahern also mentioned the need for immigrants to respect Irish laws.
The 2006 annual report of the Irish Prison Service revealed that a quarter of those sent to prison in 2005 were foreign nationals, an increase of 25 per cent on the previous year.
This report was adopted by the Joint Committee as a follow-up to its first report on immigration published in March 2005. Its main focus is not on the broader political, economic or legal issues relating to immigration but on how best immigrants, both current and future, can be integrated into Irish society as fully and as quickly as possible.
The report was compiled following a wide-ranging study of best practices in other European countries from which a number of conclusions are drawn and proposals suggested.
1. The present situation in Ireland
Mr Piaras Mac Einri of UCC prepared a paper in 2005 on behalf of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism titled Current Immigration Debates in Europe: A Publication of the European Migration Dialogue.
Mr. MacEinri’s paper is part of a series commissioned by the European Migration Dialogue, a partnership of key civil society organisations in the member states which are involved in studying migration issues. It is supported and funded by the European Commission.
A key observation of the paper is that, when the Irish Government first addressed the problem of integrating immigrants in its document “Integration: a two-way process” published by the Department of Justice and Law Reform in 1999, there was a lack of appreciation of the fact that there would need to be “a fundamental shift in attitudes, structures and services. It is not simply a matter of making public services more user-friendly for migrants but of the nature of the relationship between the migrants and Irish society in general and the nature of governance.”
It goes on to say: “Integration is not to be confused with assimilation. Integration is a two-way process that places duties and obligations on both cultural and ethnic minorities and the State to create a more inclusive society...it involves the social partners, NGOs and society as a whole.”
It particularly contends that integration policy must be Government-led and Government funded.
2. The EU Dimension
In common with Ireland, all EU countries, including, but to a much lesser degree, the 2004 Accession States, have experienced significant immigration in recent years, although the scale of this phenomenon in Ireland has not been experienced in any other member state.
While there is no EU common immigration policy in the strict sense, the subject is very much on the Commission’s political agenda, as well as that of the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The Hague Programme adopted by the European Council in November 2004 underlined the need for greater coordination of national integration policies and EU initiatives in this field.
Within a year of that date the Commission produced a communication entitled “A common agenda for integration” which largely dealt with third-country immigrants but nevertheless provided useful guidance to Member States in their efforts to integrate all immigrants.
Member States are encouraged to strengthen their efforts in developing national integration strategies, as well as aiming at greater consistency between these strategies. The intention is for these national efforts to be supported by an EU Integration Fund from 2007.
The Commission’s policy-making is inspired by the following fundamental principles:
-integration is a two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents
-the provision of equal employment opportunities is a key factor in integration
-the acquisition by immigrants of a basic knowledge of the host country’s language, history and institutions is essential
-the importance of integrating immigrants into the education system and recognising diversity in the school curriculum
-access to the institutions of the State in a non-discriminatory way, including constant interaction with representatives of immigrants
-interaction between migrants and citizens of the host country, especially at the neighbourhood level
-freedom to practice one’s religion ( which is included in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights)
-participation of immigrants in the democratic process by promoting active citizenship, minimising obstacles to the use of voting rights and progressing the work of citizenship and naturalisation programmes.
The promotion of this set of principles is the direct responsibility of the Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Mr. Frattini, who was designated by President Barroso in August 2006 to chair a Group of Commissioners on Migration in order to mainstream these issues in the Commission’s broad policy-making. The Commission publishes an annual report on Migration and Integration.
A network of National Contact Points on Integration (NCPIs) was set up in each Member State in 2002 with the support of the Commission. The NCPIs function as the national focal point for immigrants in each country. Ireland’s NCPI is the Department of Justice and Law Reform’s Reception and Integration Agency. The main purpose of this network is to create a forum for the exchange of information and best practice.
Among other EU-level activities, the NCPIs have made an important contribution to the compilation of a “Handbook on Integration” which was first published in 2004. A website is also envisaged for real-time contacts.
The Handbook looked at best practices in the Member States relating to:
-reception of immigrants and introductory courses
-arrangements to foster civic participation
-development of integration indicators.
Ireland is cited in the Handbook for its liberal policy on voting rights in local elections, for its own Handbook on “Immigrants’ Rights and Entitlements” published by the Immigration Council, and the anti-racism protocol (drafted by the NCCRI) which all political parties have signed.
A second Handbook will cover:
-housing and urban issues
-access to health and social services
-integration in the labour market
-structures to promote integration
-mainstreaming of immigration issues in broader policy-making.
3. International Organisations
In 2005 the United Nations appointed former EU Commissioner Peter Sutherland as Special Representative on Migration. Mr. Sutherland was a guest of the Joint Committee on July 5, 2006, when he emphasised the importance of a continuing global Dialogue on Migration.
The then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also put in place in May 2006 a Global Migration Group, which includes representatives of the UN, ILO,UNHCR, UNCTAD, UNDP, the World Bank and the OECD.
The European Parliament has also been active on immigration issues. A recent feature has been the Lambrinidis Report, which calls on the Commission to establish a permanent contact group of immigrants’ representatives, NGOs and other experts on immigration to advise it. The Report also urges a legal review of existing provisions relating to civic citizenship in each Member State, as well as agreeing to co-decision powers for the Parliament in this area.
4. Learning from one another: a look at best practices
Many European countries have far longer experience of dealing with immigration than Ireland, and for a variety of reasons-geographical proximity to the Iron Curtain or Africa, their economic dynamism, post-colonial status or liberal acceptance regimes, especially for refugees and asylum seekers.
The policies which have evolved in different countries vary greatly, with a growing trend away from assimilation (“French model”) towards integration based on a multicultural approach (broadly-speaking, the traditional Scandinavian/Dutch model).
Since policies have been developed which are judged to be most appropriate to individual national situations, it is unrealistic to seek to establish a league table of excellence. What this paper provides is a description of some of the political/administrative structures and initiatives which might best translate to the Irish scene.
Sweden has a long-established reputation as a liberal host country and has a highly-developed structure for handling all issues relating to immigration. The recently-appointed Government includes a dedicated Minister for Immigration (previously a non-cabinet junior Minister).
There is also a Commission on Metropolitan Affairs, which oversees the integration policies of the two dozen largest cities. The Commission offers the cities “local development agreements”, which are based on management by objective and therefore can be easily evaluated and revised annually. The approach is bottom-up, with emphasis on a continuing dialogue with residents, including immigrants and minorities. The main focus of these agreements is on ending segregation and equality in living conditions.
Smaller municipalities are overseen by an Integration Board, which can provide funding for the settlement of immigrants in towns. Information for immigrants on community and other support services is also a feature.
At the same time, Sweden has a National Minorities Act (1998) to govern protection of its own minorities, including Samis, Finns, Tornedalers, Roma and Jews.
Grants are available to national immigrant organisations to promote participation in public life.
This Nordic country was recently in the international news because of the publication in one of its leading dailies of cartoons which were regarded by Muslims as being an insult to the Prophet Mohammed. Danes in turn feel that the political and administrative structures they have put in place over the years to integrate their sizeable immigrant population do not justify such criticism being levelled at the country as a whole. On the contrary, there have been many complaints in recent years that immigrants have become “too equal”, that they are a burden on the State and that they refuse to integrate into Danish society.
In 2003 the Government published “Visions and Strategies for Improved Integration” which stated bluntly: “If we fail to make a targeted and innovative effort today (on integration) we risk being left with an economic and culturally-divided society in a few years.” A report by the Think Tank on Immigration estimated that the inadequate integration of foreigners into the labour market would cost €3 billion a year.
The Government includes a Minister for Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs who, among other activities, holds a quarterly meeting with a Council for Ethnic Minorities. It has an official role to advise him on immigration issues, including refugees. He also holds regular meetings with women and youth representatives from the migrant community.
Danes proudly point to the fact that the Constitution protects freedom of religion. Denmark was also the first country in the world to pass an Integration Act (1999,) which set up the dedicated Ministry. It also has a Complaints Committee for Equal Ethnic Treatment.
The Ministry of Integration makes annual awards to companies, public administrations and NGOs for the successful integration of immigrants. This is celebrated at a national public event.
It is responsible for integration programmes planned and implemented by municipalities. It can provide Government finance to support certain programmes, particularly in more well-to-do communities which are reluctant to welcome immigrants as neighbours.
The Government funds institutions, businesses and NGOs for labour market integration initiatives. It also subsidises one-year “integration jobs” in the public sector.
The Government is currently conducting a campaign called “Every young person is needed” to encourage young immigrants to start and complete their education.
A 2004 “Strategy against ghettos” identified a number of housing areas where immigrants were predominant for financial support to encourage non-immigrants to settle there (“de-ghettoisation”).
In 2005 the government launched a new initiative, “A new chance for everyone”, largely in response to the low employment rate among immigrants from non-Western countries and their descendants. It includes the following:
-integration contracts between municipalities and immigrants stating their mutual obligations
-compliance required for permanent residence permit
-no social benefits for the 18-25-year-olds who refuse to up-skill
-parental responsibility for the non-participation of their offspring in education, including remedial classes for the parents.
This prosperous non-EU state also has very advanced policies and practices to help integrate immigrants who make up almost 7per cent of the population. It is just coming to the end of its first five-year programme, the National Plan to Combat Racism and Discrimination.
Considerable stress is placed in Norway on the creation of employment opportunities for immigrants. Part of the Action Plan was to set up a Forum for Ethnic Diversity in Working Life. Immigrants are encouraged to apply for public sector jobs, including the police and prison service, while all Ministries are obliged to raise staff awareness of the need for tolerance of immigrants. There is also a special programme to improve police treatment of immigrants, as well as one to combat discrimination in night clubs and similar entertainment venues.
A novel Norwegian initiative has been the establishment of a data base of immigrants’ skills which is available to potential employers. It is also accessible to the media in order to encourage journalists to include immigrant spokespersons in news stories or programmes where relevant. The Norwegians believe that the media has an important role to play in promoting understanding and tolerance.
The Swiss have gradually moved from regarding immigrants only as a source of much-needed labour towards a more inclusive policy. It is now accepted that the more they are integrated the more they are accepted by the indigenous population. The Federal Government has formally declared that integration of immigrants, who form more than 20 per cent of the population, is a priority for the State.
As is common in Swiss governance, there is a dual structure. At national level, there is a Federal Office for Migration and at the canton level a Federal Commission for Foreigners.
The Federal Government is currently spending around €9m. a year on integration programmes. This money is used to open up public institutions to all sub-groups in society, to encourage Swiss and non-Swiss to live side-by-side, and to provide remedial language classes for more long-established immigrants, especially those who have been prevented from attending classes because they work irregular hours.
Some cantons or municipalities insist that immigrants sign a mandatory “integration contract”, as well as a language test to qualify for municipal (not national) citizenship.
While Switzerland allows the family of an immigrant bread-winner to join him/her, this is only agreed to if the children are young enough to benefit from a full Swiss basic education. An exception is made for youths from the Balkans because the various conflicts there have resulted in the delayed reunification of families.
Primary responsibility for immigrant issues lies with the Ministry of the Interior, which consults an Advisory Council on Asylum and Migration Affairs.
In the country at large, and particularly in larger cities, the debate tends to focus on the perceived failure of integration policies which have been implemented in recent years. This disillusionment helped to spawn the radical party founded by Jorg Haider.
The most frequent complaints Austrian citizens cite is that many immigrants have failed /refused to learn German. This has led the Federal Government to make language training compulsory for all immigrants, with the threat of loss of one’s resident permit for failure to do so.
The City of Vienna, where immigrants now make up 25per cent of the population, is in the vanguard of devising new approaches. In 2004 it established within its Administration a Department of Diversity and Integration and has been trying to promote the message that diversity is an asset rather than a threat to Austrian citizens. The City Fathers also recognised that, with immigrants accounting for such a large component of the population, they could not afford to regard them as a minority or as a marginal part of society.
Diversity is mainstreamed into various Administration policies, including its own recruitment. It promotes intercultural education in the city’s kindergartens, and it provides language courses for around 8,000 newly-arrived immigrants per annum. The classes, for which newcomers are obliged to pay only a token sum (5 per cent of the total cost) are advertised in the media as well as in public buildings.
The City funds a networking office for immigrant organisations; they, in turn, are represented in the Vienna Integration Conference which advises the Administration. In all, around 100 separate organisations are included.
In Graz, the local authority has provided training for selected immigrants in the operation of the health service. They, in turn, assist members of their own communities in using the system, as well as providing interpreting for the medical staff. They also advise the system on special problems encountered by immigrants
The turn of the century has been a testing time for well-established Dutch policies of tolerance. Among the more traumatic events of recent years have been the headline murders of the radical politician Pim Fortuyn and the film director Theo van Gogh, as well as the fall of the Government over immigration issues.
These events have led to a more substantial integration policy, which is less voluntary in character. Both the rights and responsibilities of immigrants are now laid down more clearly in law. Segregation in schooling is being discontinued and more Dutch history is being taught.
The 1998 Newcomers Integration Act has recently been updated. Civic and language integration courses will be compulsory, even for more settled immigrants. Immigrants will be required to assume responsibilities for themselves and they can be fined if they don’t pass certain exams within a specified time limit.
A new feature is the obligation from January 2007 on all municipalities to stage naturalisation ceremonies to welcome new Dutch citizens.
A national organisation called FORUM helps set up Resident Planning Studios, mostly in immigration urban areas, to give them a say in the planning process. They are enabled to put their ideas and concerns to planning experts who then prepare drawings and other proposals for presentation to the local authorities, housing associations and property developers. These can subsequently be included in official development plans.
The Government will provide funds to retrain refugees who have a background in medicine, technology or education to prevent them from being employed beneath their training and ability (“ PhD taxi-drivers”).
Neighbouring Belgium has also long experience of immigrants. However, because of its own cultural divide between Flanders and Wallonia, two separate policies have evolved. While Flanders has largely followed the Dutch multicultural model, Wallonia has been more influenced by the assimilation approach adopted across the border in France. In both regions, post World War II immigration was for decades regarded as a temporary phenomenon, which is no longer the case.
In Brussels, the national government includes a Minister of Integration, who is promoting the concept of “shared citizenship.” Legal immigrants can acquire citizenship after seven years residence, although there is currently a bureaucratic backlog in processing applications.
The Prime Minister chairs an inter-ministerial Conference for Immigration Policy, which includes representatives of the regional administrations. However, critics say it does not meet often enough.
The Minister interacts with a Commission for Intercultural Dialogue, which was set up in 2004. This has led to the creation of a charter for citizenship, a ceremony of citizenship similar to the Dutch practice, and more emphasis on language classes. In addition, the Muslim community has its own officially-recognised representative body.
In 2005, the Commission recommended the establishment of a Belgian Institute of Islam, a Museum of Integration and an inter-university observatory to study actual or potential problems facing immigrants and minorities.
In Wallonia, the regional authority supports the development of joint courses for immigrants and Belgian citizens alike by teachers of religion and secular ethics. It also organises courses on the history of immigration.
In Flanders, which has its own Minister for Integration, all newcomers are obliged to participate in an integration programme, which includes free language classes, social/civic education and career guidance. A recent proposal by the Minister calls for loss of rights to social housing and/or social security benefit for non-participation.
Brussels has carried out two major studies on discrimination in housing (2004), entitled “Desole, c’est deja loué” ( “Sorry, it’s already let” ) and on job discrimination. The former has proved to be a hot political potato. The latter, published in 2005, found that job distribution was very often ethnically based. It has resulted in a new strategy to inform people of their rights and to advertise public service vacancies among immigrant communities, as well as a charter of diversity for private sector employers.
The Government has also made legal provision for the temporary removal of civic and political rights from persons accused of racism.
Like the Netherlands, the last few years have posed severe challenges for the Government on the immigration front, notably the arrival of illegal immigrants from African on the tourist beaches of the Canary Islands.
Spain shares with Ireland the recent experience of transition from a country of emigration to one of immigration. However, it has been less fortunate than Ireland in terms of illegal immigration, mostly from neighbouring African countries, and was obliged to declare an amnesty for more than 1 million undocumented residents in 2005, much to the annoyance of many EU member states which were not consulted.
The arrival of boatloads of desperate Africans on its shores has clearly overwhelmed the Government’s resources and it has appealed for financial support from its EU partners, which to date has not been forthcoming.
This latest crisis has tended to overshadow the policies the Government and the authorities of the autonomous regions have been implementing to deal with immigrants.
The principal responsibility for immigration matters is the Interior Ministry under the supervision of a State Secretary who chairs an Inter-ministerial committee on integration affairs. Much of the Government’s attention has of necessity been devoted to dealing with illegal immigration and regularisation.
Employers of immigrants on temporary work permits are obliged under law to provide them with adequate housing during their stay. Failure to do so can result in the employer being deprived of further work permits.
Language training for immigrants is widespread at the level of the autonomous regions, many of whom insist on teaching their own regional languages (e.g. Catalan) rather than Spanish.
The Catalan Farmers’ Union offers mentoring for seasonal farm workers who, on their return to their home country, can pass on knowledge they have acquired in setting up collective projects, modern agriculture techniques and IT applications for farming.
Portugal is another EU country which traditionally saw its citizens going abroad to work. Since its accession its economy has been growing strongly and this has attracted a steady flow of immigrants, especially from Brazil.
To cope with these changed circumstances, the Government created the post of High Commissioner for Immigrants and Ethnic Minorities, as well as a Consultative Council for Immigration Affairs. The latter brings together representatives of Government, recognised immigrants’ associations, NGOs and the social partners.
The Government has also set up one-stop shops for immigrants in the two largest cities, Lisbon and Oporto, which are staffed by civil servants from six Ministries. They provide information on immigration law, family reunion, recognition of qualifications and access to the labour market. Settled immigrants are part of the staff. Smaller information points exist in other cities.
With the aid of the EU’s URBAN I&;II programmes, progress has been made in improving inner-city ghettos in Lisbon and Oporto, initially targeting juvenile crime in over 50 disadvantaged quarters. In partnership with NGOs, the municipal administrations set up interdisciplinary project teams (including local foreign-born mediators) to build bridges to high-risk youngsters. The programmes have been sufficiently successful to enable the cities to move the emphasis from crime prevention to social inclusion, and they are now being extended to other cities.
“Portugal Acolhe” (“Portugal Hosts”) is a programme started in 2001. It has provided a welcome guide for new immigrants in six languages. With the help of NGOs it runs language and good citizenship classes for around 3,000 people a year. They are given a food subsidy and free transport to and from class. Local authorities provide support for cultural and ethnic festivals.
The Government has also set up “Digital Inclusion Centres” to train young immigrants for jobs in the IT sector.
In the past, Germany operated the so-called “Gastarbeiter” system which regarded immigrants primarily as guest workers who could be sent home as and when necessary. It even had a “non-integration” policy for immigrants who were not expected to stay. The country has come around to the view that this temporary status is no longer valid or justifiable and a multicultural approach is now to the forefront at the Federal Office of Immigration and Refugees.
It will have an uphill struggle to ensure that parallel societies are not created in Germany. Like France and the UK, there have been problems concerning Muslims refusing to remove their headscarfs in classrooms, Turkish women killed by their families for refusing arranged marriages, and violation of Islamic women’s rights such as genital mutilation.
The new policy places considerable emphasis on integrating immigrants through language teaching. Six hundred hours of German and 30 hours of civics are available for a small contribution which can be waived.
In Frankfurt, language courses are preceded by 40 hours of orientation in the city, including instruction in the use of the underground. It includes a guided walk through the city, a visit to municipal offices, and information on institutions and the legal system. They are conducted by settled immigrants and are available in 8 languages.
Following riots in several banlieux in 2005, the Prime Minister set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Immigration Control, which he himself chairs. The use of the word “control” to some extent reflects the French approach, largely inspired by a growing perception among citizens that there are too many immigrants and that they have failed to assimilate. The more extreme symptom of this attitude is the strength of the vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen and other radical leaders opposed to immigrants.
The first fruit of the Government Committee was the publication in July, 2006 of a proposal to establish a High Authoritiy to fight discrimination and to promote equality. At time of writing, it had not yet been debated by Parliament.
Italy has not formally declared itself an immigration country, nor is it declaredly multicultural. It has no dedicated Minister for immigration issues. Employment is generally seen as the route to integration.
The Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office is formally responsible for immigration issues. It has defined integration as “not simply mutual respect and tolerance between different groups but continual interaction, engagement and civic participation, whether in societal, cultural, educational, professional, political or legal spheres.”
Some examples of individual projects are:
-an Inner-City Relations Council, chaired by a Home Office Minister and composed of representatives of Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish communities, focuses on urban renewal and social inclusion. It also provides input to the Home Office’s community cohesion policies.
-the Inter-Faith Network, which embraces more than 150 organisations, helps to build relations between the main religions.
-support for an organisation called Fusion Personnel, which supplies casual labour to the horticultural industry, provides training for the newest arrivals in language, literacy and numeracy. Workers are allowed paid time off to attend.
A pilot project in one of its provinces has led to every municipality being equipped with an immigrant information office with staff from all the relevant public services. A profile is compiled for each caller and the office stays in touch with each person to monitor their career and to provide support when needed.
They also provide a service for young people through the use of “kid teams” comprising teachers, education officers and school social workers.
In the Grand Duchy, where more than a quarter of the population is foreign-born, municipalities with more than 20 per cent of their population made up of foreigners are obliged under law to set up advisory commissions.
A National Council for Foreigners includes 15 immigrants’ representatives, chosen on the basis of ethnic proportionality as recorded by the census.
This Baltic country operates family exchange programmes between Estonian and non-Estonian children. These can last from one week to two months.
It will be obvious from the foregoing examples of innovative/best practice that there is considerable diversity of approach in other European countries, as well as many similarities.
One feature common to all of them is the prominence given to language teaching. While this may be less of a problem for an English-speaking host country, it is nevertheless not something that should be ignored in Ireland.
Equally, most countries emphasise the need to educate immigrants in the ethos of the country, as well the importance of encouraging full civic participation of immigrants.
A key to this is a well-structured consultation process to promote a continuous dialogue between immigrant organisations and national, regional and local authorities.
A significant number of countries have appointed a dedicated Minister for Immigration and/or Integration; others have put in place cross-cutting ministerial committees, some chaired by the Prime Minister. The Joint Committee already suggested that a single government department should be given overall responsibility for immigration and integration in its 2005 report; this proposal on political structures could now be further discussed. The Committee feels that overall responsibility for all matters relating to the integration of Immigrants should be allocated to a single Government department. In addition an examination should be made of how best to intensify the interaction between the Government and local authorities to implement integration measures as efficiently as possible. Members of the Joint Committee have extensive experience in this relationship.
Given that 10 per cent of the population (and rising?) urgently needs to be integrated, the Joint Committee recommends the establishment of a National Forum on Integration along the lines of the National Forum on Europe. Part of its remit would be to hold meetings in various parts of Ireland.
It is also clear that adequate financial and human resources need to be made available. In addition to its proposal for a single government department to be given overall responsibility for immigration and integration, the Joint Committee urges the allocation of a dedicated budget for integration matters.
Exchequer funding of Irish immigrant and anti-racism organisations based in Ireland could also be considered (e.g. the establishment of a (more modest) fund similar to that available from the Department of Foreign Affairs for NGOs in the development field).