This first briefing Paper of the Migrants Rights Centre Ireland is presented at a time when the migrants with the most tenuous status here, those on work permits, feel increasingly vulnerable and uncertain in the light of legislative and other changes. They have made, and continue to make, large unsung, undocumented contributions to our economy and social fabric over the past six years. As the Paper graphically points out they deserve better from us. It is not that we are unfamiliar with these issues. Many of them enriched my own previous work with Irish emigrants in the UK. But in the UK and the US (with some restrictions) Irish emigrants are free to move from one, albeit sometimes unsatisfactory job to another.
Employer ‘ownership’ of work permits in Ireland constitutes a major insecurity for migrant workers who feel controlled and, as Nuala Kelly points out in the Briefing Paper, extremely reticent to access their rights. We are extremely grateful to Nuala for bringing together and contextualising so eloquently and comprehensively, these issues which have been brought to the Centre by migrants since we opened our doors in 2001. The policy and practice recommendations she outlines provide practical possibilities towards developing the first comparative framework for migration policy and integration of migrants, which is essential for Ireland and the EU in this twenty first century.
The Migrants Rights Centre, Ireland is committed to supporting and influencing the development of that framework. For us, it is the only just response to the needs and problems we encounter daily from migrants, throughout Ireland. I take this opportunity to thank all who have worked in and been supportive of the work of the Centre in that endeavour, and in particular, the Missionary Society of St. Columban and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for their support of this publication, the first in a series, through which we aim to document and discuss the issues faced by migrants.
Migrants are here to stay because in a number of fundamental areas we need them. And, our greying demographics indicate that we will need more support in the future. Migrants are not blocks of labour but men and women with families. We know the difficulties they face from the experience of our own diaspora and from other host societies. We have an opportunity to constructively use these experiences to shape policy or, ashamedly, ignore them to our long-term loss.
Work towards creating a positive, diverse, intercultural Ireland is underway. NGOs and state officials, often in difficult circumstances, have responded to new needs. We offer this paper to them and most importantly to politicians and policy makers as food for thought and direction in the essential journey forward
Bobby Gilmore SSC