President defends rights of migrants and their contribution to society

Migrant workers provide up to 12pc of global GDP, Michael D Higgins points out

 President Michael D Higgins, see here speaking earlier this week in New York, has defended the rights of migrants and their contribution to society.

President Michael D Higgins, see here speaking earlier this week in New York, has defended the rights of migrants and their contribution to society.

 

President Michael D Higgins has defended the rights of migrants and their contribution to society in the wake of the controversy surrounding comments by independent TDs Noel Grealish and Michael Collins.

While Mr Higgins said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on individual personalities or political parties, he said that it was important to highlight the facts concerning the contribution of migrants to society.

“Very, very few people know the fact that last year’s global gross domestic GDP- between 10 per cent and 12 per cent - was provided by migrant workers. You then look at the evidence that is sometimes fired around have migrants replaced workers in any of the different categories - the empirical evidence is that they have not. You then look as well as that have migrants replaced workers or people on the housing list. They have not. So what people must do is . . . correct these facts when they’re abused in this way.”

Mr Higgins was speaking in New York ahead of his address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

Citing recent European elections, he said that it was quite “sinister” that migration was identified as the most important issue for some voters in places like rural France, places with little recent experience of migration. He said that in some communities there had been insufficient communication of the matter and that this had to be addressed.

Mr Higgins also noted he had spoken about the paradoxes of the Irish immigrant experience in previous lectures in the United States – “I spoke about the distinctiveness, for example, between the early Irish migrants in Boston, who came in before the Famine and the [immigrants] who came like a tsunami afterwards – one lot didn’t necessarily welcome the other as you know.”

The plight of migrants was also addressed in Mr Higgins’ speech to an audience in New York University on Tuesday in New York. Criticising what he described as the “re-emergence of stereotypical depictions of migrants and displaced individuals from poorer, developing parts of our planet,” he said these depictions often emanate “from the destructive rhetoric of the most powerful seeking to galvanise vulnerable, often desperate and marginalised groups with a language of fear of the other that is often racist, xenophobic and grounded in hatred, fear and ignorance”.

“These are depictions that have no basis in fact, rationality or reality, and that offend against our very humanity and that of others,” he said.