Local integration planning essential to avoid future segregation and tensions
Lack of diversity planning at local level runs the risk of creating segregated communities and potential tensions, warns the Immigrant Council of Ireland today as it launches its new report Keeping it Local: Discussion document and proposed actions for Local Authorities on developing local migrant integration strategies today. The new report found just three Local Authorities have in-date local integration strategies and a lack of prioritisation in nearly all regions.
Brian Killoran, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said, “Despite approx. one in eight people in Ireland coming from a migrant background we have yet to see local and national government take the necessary steps to prioritise integration activities. Resourcing pro-active, positive measures will strengthen communities and build cohesion in Irish society.
“People live their lives in their communities – it’s where they live, work, go to school, meet up and join groups. It makes sense therefore for integration plans to start here. However our new report has found only three Local Authorities around the country have an in-date integration strategy. This is despite the fact it’s one of the key recommendations in the Government’s integration policy document.”
Syed Mustafizur Rahman, Spokesperson, Bengali Festival in Kilkenny, said, “We have been celebrating in Kilkenny since 2003, many of us have been living here for 12-15 years and we are proud to work here and bring up our families in the town. The Bengali Festival started in the restaurants and community halls, then as our community got bigger, the events got bigger and better. Now the Bangladeshi community from all over Ireland comes every year to Kilkenny to celebrate together.
“Every year we get 100 or more Irish friends joining us at the event, but last year was huge, we welcomed 200-250 Irish friends as well as members of the African, Indian and western European communities, creating a crowd of 1,300-1,400. This was great for businesses in the town. Being able to spread the word through local media was really important in helping the event grow.”
Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform, John Paul Phelan, TD, who provided a foreword to the report, said, “The National Migrant Integration Strategy calls for Local Authorities to update their Local Integration Strategies. The practical recommendations in this document will be particularly helpful and I strongly encourage Local Authorities to adopt them as part of a living action plan to help communities become friendlier, more welcoming and ultimately more inclusive places for migrants living in Ireland.”
Minister Phelan added, “Engagement with our migrant communities is extremely important in the context of local politics. Regardless of nationality, anyone who is 18 or over and is ordinarily resident in a local electoral area can vote in local elections. I strongly encourage all migrant communities to participate fully by ensuring they are registered to vote and to avail of their right and opportunity to vote. I would also strongly encourage members of migrant communities to consider putting themselves forward for election to local authorities.”
Joe O’Brien, Integration Outreach Officer with the Immigrant Council of Ireland and report author, said, “Our report Keeping it Local explores the challenges and barriers Local Authorities face, analysing the work done to date, drawing out best practice and drawing together a list of key principles and actions which, if undertaken, would provide a solid basis for successful local integration.
“Small measures, like introducing an intercultural small grants scheme and facilitating community inclusion open days would go a long way towards embedding an intercultural identity within communities and celebrating diversity. Uniting communities in a common purpose and with a shared vision regarding diversity has the double positive of protecting against segregation and diminishing the risk of racial tensions, while also building a thriving, diverse society.”
He added, “It is encouraging to see a number of Local Authorities taking steps to develop a strategy and we would hope sufficient resources will follow to ensure effective implementation.”
Our report Keeping it Local: Discussion document and proposed actions for Local Authorities on developing local migrant integration strategies is being launched today (Thursday 26 July) by the Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan, TD, in Kilkenny County Council Chamber.
Pippa Woolnough, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Tel: 085 864 0682, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
About the Immigrant Council of Ireland:
The Immigrant Council of Ireland is the leading voice in securing improved rights and protections which benefit Irish citizens, migrants and their families. Founded by Sr Stanislaus Kennedy in 2001, the Immigrant Council of Ireland uses its frontline services including the information and referral service; anti-trafficking research; anti-racism hotline and the Law Centre to meet the immediate needs of immigrants in Ireland. The organisation uses this experience to put forward clear, evidence based proposals to change Irish law. For more information, please visit www.immigrantcouncil.ie.