Irish abroad on short-term visas or insecure work urged to consider returning
The coronavirus pandemic has killed about 10,000 people globally and infected more than 244,000
An Aer Lingus plane lands at Frankfurt Airport, Germany this week. Photograph: Thorsten Wagner/EPA
Several Irish support organisations around the world are advising Irish citizens with insecure work or short-term visas to consider flying home.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 10,000 people globally and more than 244,000 have been infected, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 86,000 people have recovered, mostly in China, but the pace is much slower than the spread of the Covid-19. As the number of cases are rising in most countries, borders are closing and flight options are rapidly diminishing.
Crosscare, a Government-funded agency supporting Irish emigrants and immigrants, has been taking calls this week from Irish people abroad concerned about returning home. The organisation’s policy officer Danielle McLoughlin said the charity was working with other groups to help people in vulnerable circumstances.
“We would advise any emigrants living abroad whose visa may be due for renewal soon, or if they are waiting for renewal, or whose visas have lapsed, to check the official government information online for the country they are in, or get in touch with their local Irish emigrant organisations to help them to find out their options and to help them to regularise their permission,” she said.
“For example, the Australian government have interim measures and advice in place such as bridging visas, or a waiver for those on a ‘no further stay condition’ visa to leave the country to apply for a new visa where their current visa is due to expire in the next two months (see homeaffairs.gov.au).
“Some people may be worried about having insecure work or being made redundant, as the impact of Covid-19 is putting many companies out of business. Our advice is again to seek information from official sources on what protection measures are being brought in to support people affected by unemployment, and to engage with support organisations such as Irish emigrant organisations to see how they can help them.”
Irish Support Agency New South Wales in Australia said options for flights were rapidly disappearing, and people needed to act quickly.
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“While everyone’s circumstances are different, anyone who considers themselves at risk of financial instability as a result of the Covid-19 related employment downturn and is not confident of supporting themselves, should be looking to get home as soon as possible or run the risk of getting ‘locked in’. Please note there are very limited supports available for non-nationals here in Australia,” the organisation posted on their Facebook page.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said anyone with a travel related query, including Irish citizens with short or long-term visas in another country, should contact their helpline or web chat directly.
“Individual circumstances and countries differ markedly, and this does not lend itself to offering or following general advice,” he said.
The department said it was closely monitoring the situation across all world regions through their embassies and consulates.
“We are aware of Irish citizens in difficulty in a number of countries around the world due to increasing restrictions on international travel. We are engaging with local authorities, our EU colleagues and international partners to ensure that all possible support is provided to Irish citizens overseas in these circumstances. We continue to advise all Irish citizens against any non-essential travel overseas.”
Aileen Leonard Dibra, executive director of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers in the US, said the group encouraged all Irish citizens who wish to return to Ireland from the US to plan to do so now and the centres were available to give advice online.
The Irish Canadian Immigration Centre said: “Any Irish citizen who is unsure of their situation in Canada should seriously consider their options as a matter of urgency and if they decide to return home, they should do so as soon as possible.”
Visa First, the Irish-based global migration specialist working with companies reliant on travelling for business, is advising individuals and businesses to “err on the side of caution. Several countries could potentially go into lockdown and with very little notice. It is important for Irish abroad to be prepared and in the best position to deal with this. For most, that will be to return home to Ireland.”
Kellsie Larkin, account manager with Visa First, said some visa applications are still being approved, “but many with suspensions due to travel restrictions in countries like India, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia. So, your visa might be granted but it is essentially invalid until a certain date, which will most likely keep changing,” she said.