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Returning emigrants face poverty, homelessness and isolation

Homelessness is one problem returning home can bring

By David Hennessy

Emigrants returning to Ireland are finding themselves vulnerable to poverty, homelessness, isolation, mental and physical health needs.

A new report from Crosscare Migrant Project, titled ‘Coming Home in Crisis’, calls for closer attention to be paid to the protection of returning emigrants coming home in vulnerable circumstances.

Crosscare Migrant Project, a government-funded agency supporting Irish emigrants and immigrants, recorded the real life experience of returning Irish emigrants of various ages who had returned from living in the UK and a number of other countries. Crosscare also collected information from eleven Irish Emigrant Support groups who work with Irish emigrants.

The report highlighted emigrants returning to Ireland in unplanned and crisis situations often experience problems such as job loss, homelessness, serious health needs, domestic violence, addiction, deportation, release from detention or prison or fleeing conflict zones.

The report said some emigrants chose not to contact friends or family on their return for fear of being judged as a ‘failure’ for returning home in crisis. Some also said they found it hard to get the help they needed on their return.

One told researchers: “One woman in one office told me to go back, that was crazy. We went to the council but they refused us and suggested we stay with friends, but I was not in touch with anyone. They did not give me a list, they told me to look myself.”

The report summarises: “Those who return to Ireland generally face a great deal of stress and physical and psychological burnout.”

An estimated 26,900 Irish people returned to the country in the year to April 2019, according to figures published by the Central Statistics Office.

The report was launched by Senator Billy Lawless at EPIC, the Irish Emigation Museum in Dublin on Monday when he said: “We need to send a strong message that Ireland cares for its Diaspora.”

Danielle McLaughlin, Policy Officer at Crosscare, said the report highlighted the need for efficient access to vital statutory services and supports, including to stable emergency accommodation, social welfare and medical and psychological care. Particular attention is also required to ensure returning Irish emigrants from minority ethnic groups do not suffer from unfair discrimination.

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The report offers recommendations in the areas of housing, financial insecurity, family and support networks, health, immigration issues, detention/deportation, personal security issues around threats and violence and discrimination.

The report recommends emigrants get immediate access to homeless accommodation and emergency social welfare assistance, free medical care for those in urgent need of medical attention and accelerated immigration permissions for non-EEA families.

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