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Our immigrants can hasten our recovery

Last update - Tuesday, March 1, 2011, 21:58 By Priya Rajsekar

It’s done now – the new Government has been voted into power. But will anything really change for the common man?

There is widespread concern that we could get more of the same, partly because the incoming Government has inherited all the burdensome baggage left behind by its predecessors, and partly because over the years political apathy has been strengthened by public ennui and general amnesia.
Jobs, the economy, the burgeoning mortgage crisis and the ailing health system will take up much of the early working hours of the new Government. But several segments of the population will now have to deal with an indifference somehow justified by the more pressing needs that will occupy minds and the media alike.
One such group is Ireland’s immigrants. It seems overambitious, to some even greedy, to suggest at this moment that something needs to be done for immigrants.
During Ireland’s boom years, when immigrants fuelled the country’s growth and a few thousand asylum seekers risked lives and livelihoods to reach what they believed would be a safe haven, nothing significant was done for this segment of society – so much so that even a fair immigration policy is yet to be drawn up.
Now, when the country is swimming against the tides, immigrants suffer in silence without a voice or a vote. And what’s more, they will go unnoticed.
Maybe some fresh thinking is needed here. Considering that immigrants as a community are a die-hard group with ambition and drive enough to leave their homes, maybe rather than ‘expecting’ from the country, immigrants could aid its freedom from the shackles of debt and despair. A new and fair immigration policy could well lay the foundation for a symbiotic relationship rather than one of dependence and perceived benevolence.
But if immigrants continue to be undermined and short-changed, it could only worsen Ireland’s international reputation. It is glaringly obvious that immigrants, who make up about 10 per cent of the population, are perhaps the country’s most influential ambassadors. Rather than see them as a problem, a proper fair immigrant policy would see them emerge as a powerful resource to raise the international profile of the country.
Immigrants have been so far conspicuous by their absence from politics and the higher echelons of any decision-making authority. It is also widely believed that immigrants find it hard to break the glass ceiling at work and remain deprived of positions in higher management.
Even if Ireland ceases to attract an increasing number of immigrants, those that remain here, whether by choice or by force of circumstances, need to be given a fair deal. Failure to do this is and will be very detrimental to the interests of both immigrants and the country in general – the consequences being an rise in crime rates, increased instances of racism and communal disharmony as a direct result of marginalisation.
I hope that policymakers in the new Government have the foresight to make room for an inclusive immigration policy and in this hour, when Ireland needs every bit of help it can get, enlist the support and expertise of its immigrants as part of the bail-out solution for this country.
To get Ireland working, every contribution counts – including those of immigrants and other vulnerable groups who, nourished by fair and conducive policies, could hasten Ireland’s recovery.

Priya Rajsekar is a freelance writer and co-founder of College Canteen, a student-academic social network.

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