Just 5% of public bodies in Ireland have policies on migrant integration

Monday, November 27, 2017 - 11:45

An audit of 432 Irish public sector organisations showed that only 5% had specific integration policies in place, despite Ireland having the fourth highest level of inward migrants in the EU, a report published by Maynooth University researchers has found. The report, Developing Integration Policy in the Public Sector, was launched at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission today.

“The public sector is especially important in the integration of migrants into Irish society because it frequently has a role in relation to access to opportunities and to services,” said Professor Mary Gilmartin of Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute. Seventeen percent of the population of Ireland was born outside the country, with three in 10 migrants born outside the EU.


“Two of the most critical measures of integration are employment and housing. In Ireland we find immigrants are over-represented in wholesale, retail, hospitality and health jobs, and under-represented in public administration, which is a large employer. In terms of housing, while just 13% of households headed by Irish nationals are in the private rental sector, 73% of households headed by Polish nationals are,” she continued. Local authorities are among the forefront of public sector bodies developing policies.

“Integration is a long-term, two-way process which should have the objective of fully realising the human rights of migrants,” said co-author Dr Clíodhna Murphy, lecturer in the Department of Law at Maynooth University. “The Government’s Migrant Integration Strategy published in February 2017 does not mention human rights explicitly and though it has several positive features, it also has limitations. For example, it states that the objective should be that the basic values of Irish society are respected by all - but does not identify what those values are. We are concerned that it does not apply to asylum seekers, and that it is open to considering citizenship tests.”

“While we believe there is evidence of better practice in public sector organisations, based on pre-existing equality, diversity and dignity at work policies, we found pretty much a blank slate as far as specific policies on integration go. There is a significant opportunity for Ireland to develop a new, progressive approach. Ireland’s small size is an advantage in successful integration, and there is much evidence to prove that integration failure, resulting in large groups of excluded people, causes major social problems - which Ireland can avoid. Language, education, employment, access to services and interaction with Irish citizens are fundamental enablers of full participation in society,” said Prof Gilmartin. “The public sector is absolutely crucial.”

The study identified some very good policy and practice in the sector, including in Dublin Bus, the Prison Service and the Central Bank of Ireland, and it includes practical guidelines to help public bodies develop, implement and evaluate integration policies, which would also be useful for private sector and non-governmental organisations.

Developing Integration Policy in the Public Sector: A human rights approach was funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission through the Human Rights and Equality Grant Scheme 2016-17.