Diversity, migration and integration have never before been such high-profile issues in Irish society. Internationally migration is the hot topic of the day, and how we as a society respond to immigration and new communities has the crucial benefit of being completely win-win if handled correctly.
This is why in 2017 we established the Integration Hub, with a focus on promoting political participation and combating racism. The Integration Hub is funded under the EU Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) via the Department of Justice and Equality.
The latest figures show political representation in Ireland does not reflect our increasing diversity: while one in eight of us is from a migrant background, just nine out of 949 local councillors across Ireland are from a migrant background. Improving political participation is an essential part of successful integration, giving migrants the opportunity to get involved and influence and enrich the societies of which they are a part.
While working to ensure an appropriate response to, and support for, migrant communities in the future, we recognise that every day children, men and women are discriminated against based on their race, background or ethnicity. We have seen examples in other countries where communities have become ghettoised, leading to a lack of empathy and understanding of each other’s lifestyles and beliefs. Ireland is becoming an increasingly diverse country and we have a real opportunity to embed positive practices for the benefit of the whole of society.
In February 2017 the Government published its National Migrant Integration Strategy, detailing a number of initiatives which, if implemented, would improve the experience of migrants who no call Ireland home. Local Authorities play a crucial role in delivering successful integration strategies as so many of the issues which affect everyday life fall within their remit. The Immigrant Council is supporting LAs to develop their own localised migrant integration strategies as unfortunately, despite widespread willingness to assist with migrant integration, few have active migrant integration strategies.
In addition to specific programmes of work regarding political participation training with people from a migrant background and integration strategy work with local authorities, we will continue to research and collect information about the experiences of people in daily life in Ireland to monitor our impact.
Combined, these actions will encourage a social understanding of the positive benefits of migration, help us to learn from each other and build stronger communities. We believe that together it is possible to continue the evolution of Irish society into one that is not only welcoming and diverse, but celebrates our differences to create an equal Ireland for all.
migrant children study in 23% of primary schools.
Migrant Integration Programmes
Through the Immigrant Council's migrant integration programmes, newcomers to Ireland are encouraged to connect with one another and their local communities to bring about positive changes and fulfil their potential.
Migrant-Councillor Internship Scheme
The Immigrant Council of Ireland initiated our political internship scheme in March 2018 with the aim of promoting migrant participation in local politics, including encouraging and preparing them to run for elective positions in the upcoming local elections in 2019. The internship invited members of the migrant community to volunteer to intern with local councillors to get a better sense of what the role involved. The interns were paired with local representatives, working alongside the councillor on local issues and attending Council and community meetings.
One of the Immigrant Council’s strategic goals for 2017-21 is to help shape the narrative on migrant rights and to continue playing a leading role in supporting integration in Ireland and combatting xenophobia and racism.
Promoting migrant political participation in local politics is an integral part of this goal. It is crucial for our elected representatives to reflect the community it serves, which means ensuring those from a migrant background are supported to register, vote and run. This programme saw the Immigrant Council match participants with local councillors from 5 constituencies in Wicklow, Dundalk, Cork, Longford and Swords.
Migrant Leadership Academy
The Immigrant Council's Migrant Leadership Academy brings together migrants living in Ireland who are committed to social justice, equality and want to bring about positive change in their communities. The Academy teaches the fundamentals of activism and community organising.
After a successful pilot in 2018, we were delighted to run the programme again in 2020 virtually in line with public health advice during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Experts from different fields mentor the participants in areas such as community organising, storytelling, building teams, campaigning and much more. Plus there is a huge wealth of knowledge and expertise shared among the participants, each of whom often have significant achievements to draw upon.
Irish National Integration Conference
The Irish Integration Conference is the Immigrant Council of Ireland’s annual coming together of national and international experts in the areas of migration and integration to share ideas and identify positive actions to promote effective migrant integration and inclusion in Ireland.
Our 2nd annual conference took place 15-19 February 2021 and saw over 40 speakers and nearly a thousand attendees tuning in to 9 online sessions exploring many different topics including integration best practices, access to citizenship, the Black Lives Matter movement, and much more.
Migrant Electoral Empowerment training programme
Democracy requires meaningful political participation from all groups in its society, and the Immigrant Council of Ireland is delighted to provide dedicated training for migrant election candidates in advance of the 2024 local elections.
Our Migrant Electoral Empowerment programme offers insightful online training with clear information on preparing, designing and implementation practices required to run and manage election campaigns. This is open to all migrants interested in running in the 2024 local elections, including those with no prior experience in electoral politics. Participants are encouraged to adapt, personalise, plan and create their own individual election campaigns along the way.
Community Navigators are community members who receive specialised training to provide information for their communities in an empowering and effective way. Community navigators are also liaisons between their community, legal service providers, social service organisations and other support services available. An initiative of the Immigrant Council's Integration team, the project aims to fight gender-based violence which often impacts migrant women.
Migrant and Refugee Leaders Network
The Migrant and Refugee Leaders Network is a peer support platform where migrant and refuge leaders can reflect on their leadership journeys, share stories of success as well as challenges, and motivate each other to continue on their community empowerment work.
The network consists of participants and alumni of leadership and political participation programmes delivered by the Immigrant Council including the Migrant Leadership Academy, political internship scheme, and many more.