Returning emigrants now counted as 'immigrants'

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.

Nationality is not taken into account when counting immigrant numbers into Ireland.

Nationality is not taken into account when counting immigrant numbers into Ireland.

“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.

Also read: Irish changes rules for de facto partners

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.

Deportations set to soar under proposed laws

Immigration experts have warned the federal government’s proposed changes to the Migration Act could see the number of non-citizens deported increase five-fold.

Australia’s Minister for Immigration David Coleman introduced legislation to allow the government to cancel the visas of people who have been convincted of a crime that carries a maximum sentence of at least two years, even if they never served time in prison.

Minister Coleman said tightening character tests based on criminal conduct was necessary to protect the community from harmful people.

Immigration Minister David Coleman introduced the legislation in July.

Immigration Minister David Coleman introduced the legislation in July.

In a Senate Committee submission, immigration researchers said the changes would impact those “who are unlikely to be an ongoing threat to the Australian community”, with many non-citizens potentially deported for non-jail time offences such as common assault, which frequently results in the lesser punishments of a fine or community correction order.

Researchers including Abul Rizvi, former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration, said a hardened character test would “immediately expand the number of people failing”, especially as the legislation could be applied retrospectively, and that it would “exacerbate the divide between citizens and non-citizens”.

Read More: Irish-born Australian resident loses court appeal against deportation

The Migration Act was last changed in 2014 under Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, when amendments allowed the immigration minister to cancel a non-citizen’s visa based on association with groups involved in criminal conduct, sexually based offences involving a child, crimes against humanity, and other offences of national and international security concern.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been vocal in opposing the current policy under which people who have lived almost all of their lives in Australia can be sent back to the countries of their birth.

Ms Ardern said the issue had corroded the political relationship between her country and Australia.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s deportation policies.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s deportation policies.

From 2012 to 2013, 76 New Zealanders’ 501 Visas were cancelled.

The figure jumped to 1,277 from 2016 to 2017 after the passing of the 2014 amendments.

The new stricter character test proposed by Minister Coleman would be the first to allow deportation of an immigrant who has not served a prison sentence, and could see thousands more non-citizens forced to leave behind their Australian lives and families.