Speech by Mr. David Stanton, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality at the launch of the Annual Monitoring Report on Integration 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to join you here today to launch the Monitoring Report on Integration 2016. I would like to begin by thanking Professor Barrett, Director of the ESRI for inviting me to launch the report.
I congratulate Dr Frances McGinnity and Dr Emma Quinn of the ESRI for producing such a comprehensive and insightful report, which provides a very valuable analysis of the current situation and experience of migrants in Ireland. The Department of Justice and Equality was pleased to commission this report which follows on from similar reports for the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The 2016 Report once again provides us with vital information on the outcomes for Ireland’s migrant population in areas such as employment, education, social inclusion and active citizenship.
It presents us with a useful picture as to how migrants are faring in these important areas of Irish life by reference to a number of key indicators. The indicators that it uses mirror closely the core indicators on integration developed at EU level and agreed at the Ministerial Conference on integration held in Zaragoza in 2010.
As in previous Reports, there is a focus on a special theme, in this case, the skills and competencies of immigrants. I will not dwell on the detailed findings in the report as they will be presented by Dr. McGinnity who will speak on this shortly.
We know from the results of the 2011 Census - the most recent Census figures available - that there has been a significant change in the profile of the migrant population residing here. The 2011 Census figures indicate that the migrant community accounts for 12% of our population. More than 100,000 persons from over 170 countries have become Irish citizens since citizenship ceremonies were introduced in 2011. We now have people from over 199 countries living in Ireland and the changing ethnic, linguistic and faith-based composition of our population presents many opportunities and challenges to policy-makers, institutions and local communities.
I look forward to the publication of the results of the 2016 Census later this year as this will give us an opportunity to examine what changes, if any, have occurred in the profile of the population since the 2011 Census.
However, it is also vital that we monitor changes in the circumstances and experiences of migrants over time so that we can respond to their needs and plan successfully for the future. Our policy responses must be based on solid evidence.
Developing our knowledge base is a crucial part of this process and the ESRI's Integration Monitor is giving us valuable evidence of areas in which progress has been made and those where further action may be needed.
It is crucial that we get our integration policy right. Our aim must be to ensure that Ireland remains a society in which all persons are welcomed and valued as individuals, regardless of their background, race, colour or creed.
In my opinion, we all have a responsibility to create an environment that welcomes and encourages the participation of migrants in all areas and aspects of Irish life. I welcome, in this regard, the findings of the Sunday Independent / Millward Brown survey which found that 52% of Irish people consider greater diversity to be a positive for Irish society.
Many of you here today will be aware of, or indeed may have attended, the launch of the Migrant Integration Strategy last month. That Strategy gives effect to the commitment in the Programme for Government to promote policies which contribute to integration and promote social inclusion, equality, diversity and the active participation of migrants in the economic, social, political and cultural life of their communities.
The Strategy provides the framework for Government action on migrant integration for the years 2017 to 2020 and will stimulate action on integration by Government Departments, public sector bodies, the business sector, local authorities, and by civil society organisations.
The aim of the Strategy is to enable all to participate actively and constructively in Irish society. Measures are proposed to encourage greater participation in public sector employment, including in the civil service, on State boards and in politics. Networks will be used to communicate information to hard-to-reach groups and to enable their voices to be heard.
It is a priority of the Strategy to ensure that mainstream services, such as in health, education, social protection and employment, are responsive to the needs of migrants. Targeted measures will also be developed to address particular issues. I am pleased to report that the Strategy was informed by this report. A specific action was included in the Strategy to address one of the issues of concern highlighted in this report, namely that African migrants may have higher than average levels of unemployment. This issue is now being examined directly as an outcome of the findings of this report.
On 7th February last, on the occasion of the launch of the Migrant Integration Strategy, I launched a new Communities Integration Fund which will provide funding for community-based organisations to promote integration at local level.
Communities play a key role in promoting integration by creating a welcoming environment in which migrants are enabled to grow and prosper. The Communities Integration Fund will build on that good will and help to equip communities to take practical action to support integration.
The Communities Integration Fund will provide small grants, up to a maximum of €5,000, to community organisations across the country to take concrete actions to support integration and to reach out to migrants and refugees in their areas.
Last week, I announced a further call for applications for National Funding to Promote the Integration of Migrants. Funding under this more recent call will be granted for a wide range of activities and is open to applicants at both regional and national level. It is intended that this funding will complement the Communities Integration Fund which I mentioned earlier. Further information and details on how to apply are available on the website of the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration at www.integration.ie.
To conclude, I would like to commend the ESRI on the production of the Monitoring Report on Integration 2016. The research contained in this Report will benefit researchers, policy makers and a wide range of organisations and individuals working with migrants. It is giving us a strong foundation for future policy development. It is deepening our understanding of the Ireland of today so that we can build an Ireland of tomorrow which enables migrants and non-migrants alike to forge better lives for themselves and for their families.
Thank you for your time and attention.