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Ireland slow to integrate migrants into schools

Resource type: News

Irish Times | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

AMIE SMYTH, Social Affairs Correspondent

IRELAND IS among the least prepared states to help new immigrants enter the school system and do well in their studies, an international study has claimed.

The Migration Policy Index, which compares integration policies in 31 countries, concludes that “boom time funding and projects” did not create systems to enable schools to address and monitor the needs of migrant children.

It also criticises Government decisions to cut back on English language support in schools and to close the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism – a State body set up to tackle racism.

“Migrants with specific needs enjoy less favourable targeted measures than in most new immigration countries,” says the report, which notes 22 of the other states surveyed support immigrant languages and 12 states provide outreach to their parents.

There are 45,700 immigrant pupils at primary level out of a total student population of 476,000, and an estimated 18,000 immigrant pupils at second level.

The report, which is published by the British Council and the Migration Policy Group think tank, ranks Ireland 16th out of 31 countries in a comparison of 148 different integration policy areas.

It concludes that the economic crisis is having a negative impact on the integration of immigrants.

“Government is restricting family access to work, increasing fees and cutting funds, including for the Equality Authority, which may undermine its discrimination work,” it says.

Out of a total score of 100 for the best integration policies, Ireland scores 49 points, which ranks it behind many of its EU partners.

The last time the Migration Policy Index was published in 2007 Ireland scored 48 points, reflecting “changes in integration policies only change little by little”, according to the report.

The study shows Ireland performs well in comparison to other countries in facilitating the political participation of immigrants. It is tied in third place overall and ranked behind only France and Norway.

Immigrants are allowed to vote in local elections and some government funding is provided to migrant community groups.

The study criticises the lack of a basic long-term residence entitlement in Ireland, which is an entitlement enjoyed in almost all the other countries surveyed.

It also has the least favourable family reunion policies for migrants of all the 31 countries in the survey.

“Ireland shows little respect for the family life of its non-EU residents and discourages their integration once arrived,” says the report, which notes the Government has chosen to opt out of key EU laws that would provide more security and rights to migrants.

Ireland also scores poorly for providing labour market mobility to immigrants and ranks 28th out of the 31 countries surveyed.

“Ireland misses out on the long-term economic potential of its non-EU residents … Unlike EU citizens, non-EU temporary workers cannot access or change jobs, start businesses, or use general job support as in other new and established countries of labour migration,” says the report.

Sweden (83), Portugal (79) and Canada (72) were the top three ranked states in the survey, while Latvia (31) was ranked bottom for its integration policies.

The Migration Policy Index is a project led by the British Council and involving 37 national organisations including NGOs, universities and state equality bodies. The report is co-funded by the EU.

Migration Policy Group is an Atlantic grantee.

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