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Irish Pro-Migrant Nongovernmental Organizations and the Politics of Immigration

Abstract

In this article social movement theory is used to assess the strategic repertoire of a relatively new sector of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) advocating for migrants rights in Ireland. Pro-migrant NGOs are majority community-led and face a challenging political and societal context for mobilization including a restrictive immigration regime, political and media discourse that racializes migrants, weak public support for the expansion of migrants’ rights, and high rates of discrimination and social exclusion experienced by migrant communities. A competitive funding environment also inhibits pro-migrant NGOs capacity to work with emerging migrant-led organizations that simultaneously compete for state and foundation funds. Pro-migrant NGOs in Ireland have responded with a three levelled strategy, namely alliance building with sympathetic public officials and service and information provision to state bodies, campaigns contesting negative media and societal framing of migrants, and networking with transnational NGO coalitions working on immigration issues.

Résumé

Dans cet article, la théorie du mouvement social est utilisée pour évaluer le répertoire stratégique d’un secteur relativement nouveau qui fait valoir les droits des immigrés en Irlande par le biais des Organisations non gouvernementales. Celles-ci sont en faveur de l’émigration recevant l’aval des communautés et font face à un défi du contexte politique et social stimulant y compris un régime d’immigration restrictif, un discours politique médiatisé qui a tendance à marginaliser les émigrés, un appui du public sporadique en ce qui concerne l’extension des droits des immigrés et beaucoup de discrimination et d’exclusion sont endurées par les émigrés. Un environnement de financement compétitif empêche également la possibilité aux organisations non gouvernementales en faveur de l’immigration de travailler de pair avec les organisations menées par les émigrés qui rivalisent simultanément avec l’état et les fonds nécessaires. Des Organisations non gouvernementales en faveur de l’immigration en Irlande ont répondu par une stratégie à trois niveaux : (1) La mise au point d’une d’alliance avec des fonctionnaires publics compatissants et le service et l’information prévisionnelle destinée aux corps étatiques. (2) Des campagnes contestant la négativité des médias et l’encadrement social des émigrants. (3) Et enfin la constitution de réseaux de coalitions d’Organisations non gouvernementales transnationales travaillant sur les questions des problèmes suscités par d’immigration.

Zusammenfassung

In diesem Artikel wird die Theorie der sozialen Bewegung genutzt, um das strategische Repertoire eines relativ neuen NGO-Sektors, der sich für die Rechte von Migranten in Irland einsetzt, zu bewerten. Pro-migrant-NGOs sind mehrheitlich von lokalen Gemeinschaften geführt und stehen einem schwierigen politischen und gesellschaftlichen Kontext für die Mobilisierung gegenüber, inklusive restriktivem Immigrationsregelwerk, politischem und medialem Diskurs, der Migranten rassifiziert, schwacher öffentlicher Zustimmung für eine Ausweitung der Rechte von Migranten und hohen Raten von Diskriminierung und sozialem Ausschluss von Migrantengemeinschaften. Ein umkämpftes Finanzierungsumfeld blockiert auch die Fähigkeit von pro-migrant-NGOs, mit aufstrebenden von Migranten geführten Organisationen zu arbeiten, die simultan um Gelder von Staat und Stiftungen konkurrieren. Pro-migrant-NGOs in Irland haben mit einer Strategie auf drei Ebenen geantwortet, nämlich Bündnisschließung mit sympathisierenden Amtsträgern und Bereitstellung von Service und Informationen zu staatlichen Institutionen; Kampagnen, die die negativen Medienberichte über und gesellschaftliche Einrahmung von Migranten anfechten und Pflege von Beziehungen zu grenzüberschreitenden NGO-Koalitionen, die an Immigrationsfragen arbeiten.

Resumen

En este artículo se utiliza la teoría del movimiento social para valorar el repertorio estratégico de un sector relativamente nuevo de ONG que luchan por los derechos de los emigrantes en Irlanda. Las ONG defensoras de los emigrantes están encabezadas mayoritariamente por comunidades y afrontan un difícil contexto político y social para la movilización, como un régimen de inmigración restrictivo, un discurso político y de los medios racista con los inmigrantes, escaso apoyo público para la difusión de los derechos de los emigrantes y altas tasas de discriminación y exclusión social entre las comunidades de emigrantes. El competitivo entorno de financiación también frena la capacidad de las ONG pro-emigrantes para trabajar con las organizaciones emergentes lideradas por emigrantes que también compiten por la financiación del estado y de fundaciones. Las ONG pro-emigrantes en Irlanda han respondido con una estrategia de tres niveles, a saber: el establecimiento de alianzas con funcionarios públicos compasivos, la disposición de servicios e información para los organismos del estado, campañas para responder a los medios contrarios y marcos sociales de emigrantes, así como redes de coaliciones trasnacionales de ONG que trabajen en cuestiones relacionadas con la emigración.

摘要

在爱尔兰,有多个非政府组织在为国内移民的权利而奔走呼号。本文运用了社会运动理论来评估这些属于较新领域的非政府组织所采用的一系列工作策略。这些欢迎移民的非政府机构通常由国内多数族群人士领导,但他们的工作往往面临着各种社会和政治挑战,比如:政府对移民采取限制态度;各种政治和媒体观点对移民进行负面描述;公众对扩大移民权利不太支持;移民群体感受到很高比例的歧视和排外体验。另外,由于筹资环境比较艰难,而很多移民自己领导的组织也在申请政府和基金会的资金投入,那些欢迎移民的非政府机构与这些移民自身的组织之间形成竞争,所以合作范围有限。爱尔兰国内欢迎移民的非政府机构采取了以下三个层次的策略进行应对:与同情支持他们的公共部门官员建立联盟,并积极主动为政府机构提供服务和信息;批评那些对移民进行负面描述的媒体和社会观念;与涉及移民问题的跨国界非政府组织联合体展开合作。

要約

本論文では、社会活動理論はアイルランドの出稼ぎ労働者の権利を擁護するNGOのための新たな活動分野への戦略的レパートリーの評価として用いられている。出稼ぎ労働者を擁護するNGOは大半が地域社会をリードするものであるが、政治的かつ社会的流動化の課題を抱えている。その中には移民に対する反感や移民の権利の拡大に対する世論の弱体化した支持や移民社会のおける強い差別感や社会的疎外を引き起こす要因となる政治的なメディアの情報が含まれる。さらに競合的資金を捻出する環境は、移民支持団体が州および財団法人の資金拠出を獲得する動きを妨げている。アイルランドにおける移民を支持するNGOには、以下の三段階の戦略的な枠組みがある。賛同する官僚と共に情報とサービスを構築し組織について明らかにすること、否定的なメディアおよび移民の社会的枠組みに対して異議を唱えるキャンペーンを行うこと、移民問題に取り組む他諸国のNGOとのネットワーク化を図ることである。

ملخص

في هذه المقالة تستخدم نظرية الحركة الاجتماعية لتقييم إستراتيجية الإنجازات الخاصة لقطاع جديد نسبياً لمنظمات غير حكومية(NGOs) من أجل تأييد حقوق المهاجرين في أيرلندا. المنظمات غير الحكومية (NGOs) المؤيدة للمهاجرين هي الأغلبية التي تقود المجتمع وتواجه تحديات سياسية والسياق المجتمعي للتعبئة منها نظام الهجرة التقييدي، المحادثة السياسية و الإعلامية التي تقوم بتصنيف المهاجرين طبقاً للعرق العنصري، وضعف التأييد الشعبي لتوسيع حقوق المهاجرين ، ومعدلات عالية من التمييز والإستبعاد الإجتماعي التي تعاني منه مجتمعات المهاجرين. بيئة تمويل تنافسية تمنع أيضاً قدرة المنظمات الغير الحكومية (NGOs) على العمل مع المهاجرين التي تقودهم المنظمات الناشئة التي تتنافس في وقت واحد من أجل دعم الدولة والمؤسسة. المنظمات غير الحكومية (NGOs) المؤيدة للمهاجرين في ايرلندا ردت بإستراتيجية ذات ثلاث مستويات، بناء تحالف مع الموظفين العموميين المتعاطفين و الخدمات وتوفير المعلومات لهيئات الدولة، الحملات التعاونية السلبية المتنافسة ووضع المهاجرين في إطار في المجتمع، والتواصل عبر تحالفات المنظمات غير الحكومية العاملة في قضايا الهجرة.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Ireland and Irish refers to the Republic of Ireland.

  2. 2.

    Citizens of European Union (EU) member states have the benefit of freedom of movement under the Treaty of Rome and EU law and may live and work legally in Ireland or anywhere else in the EU without a visa. Similarly citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway (members of the EEA, the European Economic Area) do not require any visa to live and work in Ireland. But for non-EU or non EEA citizens, two paths are available to legal residence in Ireland, securing a job with an Irish employer who has obtained a work permit or by claiming asylum.

  3. 3.

    The term pro-migrant NGO is borrowed from the work of Statham and Gray (2005) on migrant advocacy organizations in the United Kingdom.

  4. 4.

    This work draws in part on interviews conducted with the directors of four national level NGOs working on immigrant, refugee, asylum rights, and anti-poverty and gender equality issues. I would like to thank the directors of these NGOs which include the Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, the Irish Refugee Council, the Irish Anti-Poverty Network, and the National Women’s Council of Ireland for their contributions to this research.

  5. 5.

    This work focuses predominantly on the migrant experience with reference to the situation of asylum seekers and refugees. Labor migrants, those seeking asylum, and refugees although occupying distinct legal positions in Irish society have been homogenized in public and political discourse into one derogatory category of “non-national.” State policies and NGO advocacy for labor migrants is profoundly shaped by this conflation. Despite the obvious distinctions between migrants who enter the state for employment and those seeking asylum, they do share experiences of racism, discrimination, and social exclusion in Irish society (see Loyal 2007).

  6. 6.

    This research also speaks to issues social movement scholars have raised regarding the advantages and disadvantages of looking beyond beneficiary constituents for membership, support, and resources as well as the need for elite conscience constituents and adherents and the resources they can provide when working for constituents who face resource constraints and whom may occupy a precarious legal status (Edwards and McCarthy 2004).

  7. 7.

    Koopmans and Statham (1999) argue that the existence of comprehensive equality and antidiscrimination agencies and legislation is also an important factor in shaping the context for groups mobilizing on migrant rights.

  8. 8.

    Other organizations regionally and nationally based working with immigrant, refugee, and asylum seekers populations include AkiDwA, Cairde, Children’s Rights Alliance, Doras Luimni, Free Legal Advice Centres, Galway Refugee Support Group, Integrate Mallow (Avondhu Development Group), Integrating Ireland, Integration of African Children in Ireland, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Irish Refugee Council, Longford Women’s Link, Louth African Women’s Group, Mayo Intercultural Action, NASC, New Ross Intercultural Group and Direct Provision Integration Group, Refugee Information Service Refugee Project, Tallaght Intercultural Action, Vincentian Refugee Centre, Waterford Refugee and Asylum Seeker Council, Irish Immigrant Support Centre.

  9. 9.

    Menz (2008) has suggested that the Irish state cherry picks the EU policies it wishes to take part in including policy on carrier sanctions, biometric data, and the retention and storage of passenger data. Alleged European pressure is then rhetorically constructed to justify the implementation of certain policy tools aimed at securitization of borders and the surveillance of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.

  10. 10.

    EU policy on immigration passed by the European Parliament on June 18, 2008 makes it possible to detain irregular migrants for up to 18 months. The rules, or “return directive” will not cover asylum-seekers, but all those who overstay their visa period will be affected. The policy has been roundly criticized by the United Nations and Amnesty International.

  11. 11.

    Analysis of the 2006 census, which for the first time included questions on racial and ethnic status, suggests that the number of non-Irish nationals in Ireland increased from 222,000 in 2002 (equivalent to 5.8% of the population) to around 400,000 in 2006 (about 9.4%). Migrants from Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and the Philippines make up the largest numbers of economic migrants currently resident in Ireland. Nigerians and Chinese nationals are the largest populations resident from outside of Europe (Central Statistics Office 2006).

  12. 12.

    Ireland had until a constitutional amendment in 2004 a distinctive approach to the issue of citizenship offering citizenship at birth to all children born in the state while, at the same time, making an Irish passport available to the grandchild of any Irish citizen, born anywhere in the world to parents of any combination of nationalities.

  13. 13.

    The 2007 annual report from the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner states that 3,900 people applied for refugee status in Ireland, representing the lowest number of applications since 1997. The top six applicant countries were Nigeria, Iraq, China, Pakistan, Georgia, and Sudan.

  14. 14.

    Examples of discretionary and inconsistent practice include the practice of the DJELR of issuing stamps normally given to international students to child dependents of non-EU workers. This has led to problems for dependent children when applying for long term residency, accessing third level education and the labour market (ICI 2007a).

  15. 15.

    Data collected by the Central Statistics Office of Ireland also suggest that a significant proportion of ethnic minorities experience racial discrimination and social exclusion but that only a small number have taken any action and that almost half have no understanding of their rights under Irish equality legislation (Central Statistics Office of Ireland 2004, pp.1–3).

  16. 16.

    This agency enforces the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 which outlaw discrimination in employment, vocational training, advertising, collective agreements, the provision of goods and services, and other opportunities to which the public generally have access.

  17. 17.

    Ireland is distinctive in allowing non-citizens legally resident for 6 months or longer to vote in local elections. However, political parties, according to a series of studies, do not see the value of ethnic minorities as constituents or candidates and the formal right to vote at the local level has not provided any significant access to political power at state level (see Chadamoyo et al. 2007, p. 451).

  18. 18.

    The DJELR is also formally responsible for antiracism and equality legislation.

  19. 19.

    Immigration and integration policies are deemed by the state as separate spheres of policy competence.

  20. 20.

    National Social Partnership is a formal arrangement in which each government’s policy program is negotiated and progress monitored by a committee of representatives drawn from four pillars: business, trade unions, farming, and the community and voluntary sector. NGOs participate in the negotiations as part of the Community and Voluntary sector pillar and in signing the agreement are eligible to become members of the monitoring committees.

  21. 21.

    Most activists have had overseas development work experience in Africa and/or Central America.

  22. 22.

    Two umbrella organizations are also noteworthy. The Coalition Against the Deportation of Irish Born Children (CADIC) is a diverse range of mostly majority-led organizations that were successful in getting the government to step back from mass deportations of children and their families after the constitutional amendment. Cairde is also an umbrella organization which advocates for support to address health inequities among ethnic minorities.

  23. 23.

    In some sense there exists a division of labor between the two organizations which stems from the original funders of both organizations—Atlantic Philanthropies and a US exchange organized by the Migration policy group in Washington D.C. which helped inform activists involved in setting up both organizations.

  24. 24.

    The ICI dealt with 10,000 inquiries in 2007 from its information service a rise of 33% over the number of requests in 2006. The organization receives no state funding for its core services relying on a subvention from Citizen’s Advice Bureaus for its hotline.

  25. 25.

    The MRCI Annual Report lists it financial sources as 6% state; 9% semi-state; 68% philanthropic foundations; 14% other non-state; 3% fundraising events, donations, and income generation (MRCI 2007a, p. 24).

  26. 26.

    The MRCI assists individuals through negotiation with employers, making representations to employment complaints bodies and the Labour Inspectorate. The organization also aids undocumented workers in regularizing their situation by negotiation directly with the Work Permit Section of the DJELR.

  27. 27.

    The MRCI is simultaneously pursuing a legal case regarding the powers of the Labour Inspectorate to enter into and investigate the private home.

  28. 28.

    The final Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008, which was published on March 18, 2008, provides for the establishment of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) on a statutory footing with greater enforcement powers than its predecessor, the Labour Inspectorate. However, to date while undocumented employees have been deported, employers found to be exploiting these workers have not been subject to prosecution.

  29. 29.

    Most recently the ICI launched a series of workshops aimed at educating migrant leaders on communication, fundraising, and social entrepreneurial skills.

  30. 30.

    Framing refers to the ideological pronouncements of NGOs with which they assign meaning to and interpret relevant events and conditions to garner bystander support and demobilize antagonists. Frames also refer to the actions of NGOs, as encoded in the actions and strategies of groups are messages which can influence supporters (McAdam et al. 1996, p. 341).

  31. 31.

    Other international legal instruments that these organizations pressure the government to comply with include the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8 on the rights of the child, and Article 7 of the EU charter of fundamental rights.

  32. 32.

    The director of the MRCI also sits on the board of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) a Brussels-based nongovernmental organization advocating for antiracism, antidiscrimination, and the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. Both the MRCI and ICI belong to the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) and the European Platform of Migrant Workers. These transnational organizations also advocate for the adoption of the 1990 UN International Convention on the Protection of Rights of Migrant Workers and members of their families.

  33. 33.

    Filipinos took the lead on work place rights and the issue of family reunification for Filipino nurses and physicians. African activism is often church based and local level around anti-racist programs. The later example of mobilization has been facilitated in part by the linguistic affinity between many Africans and the host society (see Ugba 2005).

  34. 34.

    In concrete terms the Irish state has outlined its understanding of interculturalism in practice, this includes recruitment of ethnic minorities to the police force, a review of criminal legislation to combat hate-crime, strategies to encourage participation by young immigrants in sport and the promotion of awareness of the cultures and histories of the new arrivals (see Watt 2006).

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by research and development funds at Dickinson College. Thanks to Professor Daniel Schubert and Professor Brian A. McKenzie and two anonymous Voluntas reviewers for helpful suggestions.

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Correspondence to Pauline P. Cullen.

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Cullen, P.P. Irish Pro-Migrant Nongovernmental Organizations and the Politics of Immigration. Voluntas 20, 99–128 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-009-9084-1

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Keywords

  • Immigration
  • Migrants rights
  • Ireland
  • Social partnership
  • Pro-migrant NGOs
  • European Union