Most new Irish citizens do not feel more integrated
Most immigrants who become Irish citizens say their new status does not lead to greater integration, according to a survey to be published today.
The vast majority of new citizens are highly educated and work, the survey by the Immigrant Council of Ireland and UCD academics shows.
Most are in their 30s and 40s when they take up citizenship, with 86 per cent having third-level education and more than 30 per cent educated to master’s degree level. More than 8 per cent are educated to PhD level. More than 81 per cent are working, according to the survey of 205 immigrants.
However, 52 per cent say citizenship has not brought about greater integration into Irish society.
“Policies and procedures should be put in place which enable all citizens, including new citizens, to fulfil their potential and feel included,” said Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
Waiting times have improved, with those surveyed who got citizenship between 2010 and 2012 waiting an average of 1.48 years, compared with 2.76 years between 2005 and 2009.
But there still are no clear criteria set down for getting citizenship, with the granting of the status at the discretion of the Minister for Justice.
An applicant must be over 18 years, be of “good character” and have lived in Ireland for at least five of the previous nine years, including one year continuously immediately before the application. Applicants must also make a “declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State”.
The lack of an appeals process if an application is turned down is also leading to frustration. “Ireland also continues to have one of the few immigration systems in Europe which lacks guidelines, clarity and an independent appeal mechanism,” said Ms Charlton.
The survey showed new citizens are participating in elections, with 80.3 per cent saying they had voted in local elections, 59.2 per cent in referendums, 53.5 per cent in general elections, 26.8 per cent in European elections and 43.7 per cent in presidential elections.
Almost a quarter of new citizens came here on a work permit, 18.5 per cent were asylum seekers, 14.6 held a green card and 10 per cent were students.
The Department of Justice figures show 25,000 people were given citizenship last year. Seventy per cent of those came from just 10 countries: Nigeria, Philippines, India, Pakistan, Ukraine, China (including Hong Kong), South Africa, Moldova, Bangladesh and Russia.
In 2011, 16,000 were given citizenship while in 2010 the figure was 8,000.
The department has been working to deal with a backlog in applications for citizenship. Citizenship ceremonies were held for the first time in 2011 with 38 ceremonies held last year.