Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) now officially counts Irish citizens returning to live in the country as ‘immigrants’.
The CSO, the official statistician for the Irish government, used the term in its latest report on Population and Migration.
In a statement accompanying the report, statistician James Hegarty wrote: “In the year to April 2019, Irish nationals accounted for 26,900 (30.4 per cent) of the 88,600 immigrants to Ireland and 29,000 (52.8 per cent) of the 54,900 emigrants from Ireland.”
Asked to explain why Irish citizens were being called ‘immigrants’, Mr Hegarty said the CSO was using the “Eurostat definition for both immigration and emigration”. He said that for the purposes of reporting migration patterns, nationality was not taken into account.
“The act of immigration/emigration describes the action that a person undertakes and is not specific to any particular nationality,” Mr Hegarty said in a statement.
“While the majority of Irish nationals moving to Ireland will be returning former residents, there may also be a cohort of Irish nationals/citizens moving to Ireland for the first time. The Eurostat definition accommodates both of these situations.”
The government was asked for comment on the terminology but no response was received by deadline.
Emigrants returning to live in Ireland have complained about being treated “like immigrants”, especially when trying to resume access to social or government services, or while going through the process of satisfying the Habitual Residency Provision.
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These concerns, and other specific problems associated with the decision to return to live in
Ireland, prompted the Government to commission a report, which was completed in February 2018.
The subsequent report, produced by Indecon, identified many real challenges encountered by returning emigrants and made 30 recommendations, only a handful of which have been adopted by the government.
The CSO report found that an estimated 29,000 Irish nationals emigrated in the year to April 2019 compared with 26,900 who returned to the country.
There was a surge in emigration to Australia, as the numbers leaving Ireland for the country increased by 2,000 to 6,500 in the year to April 2019 – a figure last recorded in 2015.
The numbers heading to Australia had been declining or remained flat in the intervening period. The number of people returning to Ireland or emigrating from Australia declined from 7,200 to 5,800.