Report urges an end to penalising returning emigrants to Ireland
Ireland should introduce new laws to out an end to penalising returned emigrants with discriminatory pricing and bureaucratic obstacles at every step from school places to bank accounts to university education, according to an expert report.
Returning emigrants face sky-high motor insurance premiums once back in Ireland and, if they have children, face difficulties getting school places for them.
The 139 page report was commissioned by Diaspora Minister Ciarán Cannon TD for publication just before St Patrick’s Day when Irish ministers travel the globe praising the Irish abroad. It advises Ireland to consider reserving a small percentage of school places every year for returning emigrants.
It says 26,428 emigrants returned to Ireland in 2016 and Ireland currently sees more than 500 emigrants return every week.
They will play a “crucial part” in the continued economic growth of the country, said Mr Cannon The report recommends a means-tested third-level grant for children of long-term Irish residents, including children of Irish emigrants, to avoid higher non-EU tuition fees.
It also recommends developing new procedures to recognise foreign professional qualifications and training in:
Said Mr Canon: “As we have worked to deepen our economic recovery, together we have created conditions where our people who had to leave the country because of economic need can now return. It is very welcome to see that our emigrants are now returning in large numbers – this means families are being reunited and local communities replenished.”
The report itself says it is “essential” to assist returning emigrants “to overcome any unnecessary administrative or other barriers.”
Mr Cannon said: “In a world of increased international mobility and an increasingly global labour market, it is imperative that the Government facilitates the mobility of our citizens; that we enable them to travel abroad, continue engagement with them while they are living abroad, and most importantly, make it as easy as possible for them to return home.
“Difficulty in accessing clear information about Government services was a key issue identified by our returning emigrants. I have already prioritized this important area, and a new expanded ‘Returning to Ireland’ section is being added to the website of my Department. We will continue to work to communicate better with our returning citizens so that they get the best information possible to help make their return to Ireland as smooth as possible.
“A clear whole-of-Government approach will be taken to implementing this report. Departments will report back to Government before the Summer with an update on progress made or actions taken in implementing recommendations contained in the report.”
The Minister said he would prefer to work with motor insurers as he did not especially want “to go down the route of legislation (which) would be very long, very tortuous with opportunities for it to fail.”
The report suggests the Irish Government highlight companies who accept no-claims discounts to returning emigrants on a dedicated website branded “Returning to Ireland” under the Government’s planned Ireland.ie website.
Mr Cannon agreed that it was certainly “worth exploring” the idea of reserving places for the children of returning emigrants, particularly in primary schools in Dublin, where there’s more pupils than places.
The report also recommends an overseas visa application process for non-Irish spouses and partners of returning Irish emigrants. Explaining that government departments have been asked to respond to the report’s findings and recommendations within three months, Mr Cannon said: “This is the beginning rather than the end of a substantial process to make coming home easier.”
Some 1,188 returning or returned emigrants were surveyed of whom 43.4 per cent said they had “very difficult” experiences finding housing, 41.4 per cent with motor insurance, and 16.3 per cent with finance and banking.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, especially, should examine guidelines to provide flexibility to allow vulnerable returning emigrants access social welfare payments, says the report.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney, whose department paid for the report, said he was particularly happy with the timing of its release, just before St Patrick’s Day “when the Government will engage with Irish communities and emigrants across the world”.
These are some of the report’s quotes from some of the people surveyed on the areas they found especially difficult as returned emigrants:
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade websites should now provide information for returning emigrants on:
• Finance, Banking and Pensions
• Health and Childcare
• Immigration and Welfare
• Education Related
• Entrepreneurial Related such as business start-ups.
The Emigrant Experience
“I am unable to obtain a small mortgage until I have worked in Ireland for two years, so I have to waste money on rent. I have owned two homes in the US and have paid all mortgages on time.”
On Irish driver’s licences and car insurance
“Cost of car insurance is gonna force us back to Australia.”
On overseas employment experience
“Working experience abroad disregarded.”
“My wife is a qualified psychiatrist but we think it will be extremely difficult to transfer her qualifications.”
On finance and banking
“Frustrating and expensive.”
“My husband and I have looked at returning before now, but from getting my husband added to my existing Irish bank accounts to applying for mortgages has proved borderline impossible.”
“My son who has just finished high school in Australia, cannot move home for university as he is now considered a foreign student. He was born in Ireland, and has always considered himself Irish. We had hoped to move back, but this ruling has prevented us.”