Home > Human Rights in the News > The Immigrant Council of Ireland on Housing and the Migrant Vote

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.

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