Skip to main content

Increase in number of migrants repatriated

Resource type: News

Irish Times |

by CARL O’BRIEN THE GOVERNMENT repatriated more than 500 eastern European migrants to their home countries so far this year under a scheme aimed at assisting destitute immigrants. In the eight months leading up to August a total of 511 migrants were repatriated. The number for the full year is set to well exceed last year’s total of 538 repatriations. The figures come at a time when unemployment among foreign nationals is rising sharply, with an increase of almost 80 per cent in the number of non-Irish signing onto the live register over the past year. The scheme is open to any citizen of a former EU accession state and certain other “specialcase” EU nationals who find themselves destitute during their time in Ireland. The vast majority who have been sent home this year have been citizens from Romania (298) and Poland (118), with much smaller numbers from countries such as Hungary (24), Czech Republic (18) and Slovakia (18). The high number of repatriated Romanians is likely to be as a result of many coming here without work permits. Since January 2007, citizens from Romania and Hungary are free to travel to Ireland. However, as a result of temporary labour restrictions, they may only work here if they have a valid work permit. Members of other former accession state countries have no such work restrictions. Significant numbers of Romanians who have been repatriated are believed to be members of the Roma community. Last year, more than 100 members of the community who were encamped near a roundabout were repatriated to their home country. Such citizens may be deported under the EU’s Freedom of Movement of Persons Regulations as long as the Minister for Justice believes their continued presence in the State is “contrary to public policy” or would endanger public health or public security. The repatriations are estimated to have cost the State about EUR250,000 so far this year. The only form of social assistance that newly-arrived migrants are automatically entitled to is free repatriation to their country of origin. The Reception and Integration Agency, which operates the repatriation scheme under the Department of Justice, says the numbers have varied significantly in recent years. It repatriated about 149 destitute EU migrants in 2004, 318 in 2005, 646 in 2006 and 548 last year. Campaign groups such as the Crosscare Migrant Project say many of these migrants tend to experience hardship for a range of reasons such as having inadequate savings, poor English language skills or are exploited by Irish employers. Homeless service providers say ‘ they have experienced a major increase in demand for assistance from migrants in recent years. Latest live register figures show that the proportion of foreign nationals who have signed on to the live register is rising faster than the proportion of Irish. The number of Irish has increased 40 per cent over the past year, while the number from former EU accession states has increased by some 144 per cent.