Generation Emigration

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens abroad

The challenges of emigration: new information pack for Irish emigrants

The Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants launches a new information pack for Irish emigrants, with advice on accommodation, visa requirements and employment issues as well as stories from emigrants, those who work abroad to support them, and those who are left behind.

Thu, Mar 15, 2012, 09:00

   

The Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants launches a new information pack for Irish emigrants today, with advice on accommodation, visa requirements and employment issues as well as stories from emigrants, those who work abroad to support them, and those who are left behind.

Joanna Joyce of the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants launching the new emigrant information pack

Today’s Irish emigrants, we are constantly told, are in a much better position than those who have gone before them. And indeed they are in many practical respects – they are well educated, have access to a myriad of simple communications systems, and cheaper flights. But some things don’t necessarily change: emigration can still be a wrenching experience as we found talking to some young people who’ve gone abroad in recent years. And not just for them but for their families at home as well.

The fact that emigration has long been a part of our history does not make it any easier. But today’s emigrants can still learn from the experiences of the past.

The plight of Irish emigrants in Britain in the 1950s prompted the Irish Bishops to set up the Irish Bishops’ Council for Emigrants in 1957 and to establish the Irish Chaplaincy Scheme there. This was replicated in the United States in the mid 1980s and again in Australia more recently.

As with the emigrants of the past, today’s emigrants face many of the same practical challenges, including finding affordable accommodation, satisfying stringent visa requirements and obtaining suitable employment. Emigrants also face social and emotional challenges, such as trying to integrate into a new culture and dealing with feelings of loneliness and isolation.

While emigration will be a positive experience for many it may not be so enjoyable for everyone. Some people may find it difficult to get work abroad and may be forced eventually to return home. Others may not be well prepared for the experience and may find themselves in difficulty in a country where they are not familiar with local practices and customs.

From the experience of the Council for Emigrants the importance of remaining within the legal system of the host country cannot be emphasised enough: it is crucial that emigrants travel on a valid visa at all times. The Council for Emigrants encourages Catholic emigrants, where possible, to make themselves known to and participate in parish communities in their host country. We encourage this on pastoral, social and networking grounds, regardless of whether an emigrant is planning to remain abroad for the short or long term.

Although the experience of emigration has in some ways improved the Council for Emigrants continues to support and remember those Irish emigrants who for a variety of reasons find themselves isolated and alone. In particular it is mindful of the elderly Irish community abroad – the emigrants of the 1950s and 1980s, the Irish Traveller community in the UK, our undocumented Irish in the United States and Irish prisoners overseas. The Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, the Irish Apostolate USA and the Irish Chaplaincy in Sydney are there to support and care for all Irish emigrants, including these particularly vulnerable groups.

It is likely that emigration will continue to rise in the next few years. It is clear from the number of people who attended the recent Working Abroad Expo events in Dublin and Cork that many more are contemplating going abroad in search of new opportunities. We have sadly once again returned to a situation where many Irish people are emigrating because they have no other option.

With the focus on those leaving it can be easy to forget that emigration also has a profound effect on those who are left behind. The emigration of a loved one can be a devastating experience for parents and other relations. Many will find it very hard to cope with the loneliness.

In response to the current wave of emigration the Council for Emigrants has produced an Emigrant Information Pack to provide information for people who are planning to emigrate and to examine the experience of those who have already emigrated. It contains practical information about accommodation, visa requirements and employment issues as well as stories from emigrants, those who work abroad to support them, and those who are left behind. The pack also contains prayers for emigrants. A copy of the Emigrant Information Pack can be downloaded here.

Joanna Joyce

Emigrant Officer

Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants

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