The Immigrant Council of Ireland on Housing and the Migrant Vote
The Immigrant Council, together with Focus Ireland, has just published ‘Making a Home in Ireland’.The report investigates the housing experiences of Nigerian, Chinese, Lithuanian and Indian immigrants in Blanchardstown, Dublin and follows last year’s Getting On: From Migration to Integration. I was taken by this section from the introduction to the report, written by Focus Ireland’s President Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy. Sr. Stan notes that successful migration policy means much more than bare infrastructure (though as Liam has noted on this blog, we have a long way to go on that front too):
‘Making a Home in Ireland’ highlights the fact that feeling at home means far more than having accommodation. Feeling at home for migrants means developing a sense of belonging and a sense of being acknowledged as a member of the diverse Irish community. Now that Ireland is facing a recession, it is time to work our way out of recession together. Some of the recent rhetoric in public discourse which has, at times, blamed migrants for our economic predicament, will not help foster the notion of being ‘at home’ for all members of our society.
This theme – of home and belonging – is a strong one in the Council’s recent work. It has been an insistent voice against the divisive rhetoric of ‘workers’ vs. ‘immigrants’ which is becoming a staple of Irish political discourse in the midst of the recession: I blogged about this aspect of their advocacy late last month. This report does well, in particular, to highlight the connection between legal status and migrants’ opportunities for integration:
Legal status and the ability to plan in the long-term have a significant impact on gaining access to good quality housing. This study has shown that being undocumented or having short-term permits work against integration, particularly as people in these situations are often reluctant to complain about housing conditions. For some people gaining legal status, or having EU citizenship (as in the case of the Lithuanian respondents), enabled them to access social and affordable housing, and home ownership.
On the same theme, the Council advocates amendments to the controversial Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill
to facilitate long-term residence rights for migrants, ensure that migrants and their families can be reunited, and that those migrants who are vulnerable to exploitation have opportunities to regularise their status if, through no fault of their own, they become undocumented.
Last week, the Council called on the Joint Committee on the Constitution to examine ways to extend the franchise to migrants who are ‘established residents in the State’. A copy of their presentation is available here. The Council argued that:
[T]he denial of a voice to migrants could lead to self-enclosed and marginalised groups in our communities. Extending the opportunity to have a say in national affairs can play an important role in preventing such a scenario. Studies of migrant voting patterns in other European countries suggest that migrants are more likely to join mainstream political parties and causes, and thus enhance their own integration, than to embrace “marginal” or “extreme” movements. At the same time, extending the franchise would help address an issue of major concern to the ICI that has emerged more strongly during this recession – the tendency in some quarters to suggest that we, as a country, need to look after “our own”. This thinking denies the reality that migrants are now established in our communities and are our own. This type of thinking would be harder to sustain if established migrants were to be given the opportunity to engage more fully at the national level.