Press Centre

Political Rhetoric on Migrants Doesn’t Match Actions

PRESS RELEASE: 9 March 2010

Launch of MRCI political pamphlet by Niall Crowley

Today the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) is launching a pamphlet that critiques Ireland’s political leadership on migration, and its commitment to equality in the current recession.

The political pamphlet, Hidden Messages: Overt Agendas, was written by Niall Crowley, equality expert and former CEO of the Equality Authority.  It compares the messages political leaders have been sending out regarding migrant workers, with the policy decisions that they have made.  The findings highlight a significant gap between what politicians say about migrant workers, and the actions that they take.

The pamphlet also highlights recommendations from the OECD and the UN for a new deal for migrants, which stand in stark contrast to the current response to migration in Ireland. It concludes by setting out new directions for policy that would reflect a political commitment to equality and justice, and would better serve both migrant workers and the task of economic recovery.

“All the international evidence highlights that migrant workers tend to be particularly badly hit in an economic recession,” according to Mr Crowley.  “This is the experience of migrant workers in Ireland at this time.  To make matters worse, in Ireland we have a political leadership on migration where the positive rhetoric of politicians is contradicted by their actions, where new policy has undermined equality for migrant workers and diminished their potential to contribute to economic recovery, and where international best practice is blatantly ignored.  This does not bode well for migrants and their families, just as it does not bode well for Irish society and the Irish economy.”

One example highlighted in the pamphlet was the new regulations on work permits brought in by Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan, T.D. in April 2009, which meant that migrant workers made redundant were prohibited from taking up a new job unless advertised for two months, regardless of how long they had lived and worked in Ireland. While previous public statements by Minister Coughlan highlighted the significant contribution of migrants, these new regulations sent out the message that migrant workers were not welcome, and those already here should be going home.  The changes were subsequently reversed, following a negative reaction from trade unions, employers, community and faith organisations, and migrant workers.

Siobhán O’Donoghue, Director of MRCI, says, “On the one hand political leaders have broadly acknowledged the contribution of migrant workers, while on the other they oversee policy developments that are extremely harsh and have a damaging impact on migrant workers and their families.  In addition, commitments are not followed through on that would give effect to their positive public statements’.

One example cited in the pamphlet is the extraordinary delay in the enactment of the Employment Law Compliance Bill which would introduce greater protection against exploitation for all workers, and in particular migrant workers who are located in sectors with high levels of exploitation.  “We have heard politician after politician promise that everything would be done to avoid another GAMMA situation,” continues Ms O’Donoghue. “The Employment Law Compliance Bill was a vital part of this promised action, and three years later it still hasn’t been passed.”

Ms O’Donoghue continued, “We hope this pamphlet will stimulate much-needed discussion on the importance of political leadership and action that supports equality for migrant workers.”