Migrant Workers in the Recession


A number of months ago I very briefly skimmed though one of Ian O’Doherty’s articles in the Irish Times wherein he mocked Gerry Adams, ‘the foreigner,’ coming down here and taking a seat in the Dail at a time when we are trying to keep Irish jobs for Irish people!
As a ‘foreigner’ myself coming from the North of Ireland and working in Dublin, I found O’Doherty’s comments mildly amusing as I thought of myself, for the first time as a foreigner – advising migrants on their rights to reside and work in the State.  Anyway, politics and views on Gerry Adams aside, the recession, as to be expected led to a feeling that we must protect and value OUR workers in the State, the Irish. 
The reality is that migrant workers in Ireland have been dealt a huge blow by the recession.  They are the least likely to be employed and the most susceptible group to exploitation in the work place.  Economic Social Research Institute figures show migrant workers are the hardest hit by the recession and three times more likely to lose their jobs than their Irish counterparts. In 2007, some 345,800 non-Irish were employed. That has now fallen 36 per cent to 220,000, leaving 125,000 people in need of social assistance.  
Statistics show a high percentage of negative decisions against non-Irish people trying to access State services leading to situations of homelessness, theft and awful standards of living.  The majority of cases that we have looked into show that the applicant is entitled to assistance having resided and worked for the appropriate time in the State.  Onerous and subjective habitual residency rules are often misinterpreted and misapplied to a large extent by State officials.  While the rules were put in place to stop ‘welfare tourism’ in Ireland, the current policy calls for urgent review to avoid a situation whereby non-Irish people, the majority of whom are EU citizens, do not fall outside the net when applying for State assistance that they are entitled to.  I do not envy any ‘foreigner’ who has lost their job in Ireland and who seeks assistance for themselves and their family.  Not only are the rules in place extremely complex and burdensome, the appeals and review procedure is something that would certainly deter a person from following through with the process in the first place.
Sarah McCoy, Brophy Solicitors
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