Significant Decline In New Arrivals As Economy Shrinks

Significant decline in new arrivals as economy shrinks

RUADHAN Mac CORMAIC, Migration Correspondent
The Irish Times
Monday, April 13, 2009

THE DRAMATIC easing of inward migration flows to the Republic has continued in the early months of the year, with the number of citizens from the EUs newer member states registering to work or access public services falling by 57 per cent.

With a similarly steep decline in the number of work permits issued to migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), and a drop of 16 per cent in new asylum applications, the figures suggest a significant overall decline in new arrivals as the economy shrinks.

Statistics collated by the Department of Social and Family Affairs show that 8,590 people from the 12 states that joined the EU since 2004 were granted PPS numbers between January and March, a 57 per cent fall on the same period last year.

The trend was even more striking among Polish migrants, with their take-up of PPS numbers falling by 62 per cent over the same period.

The figures have confirmed a trend that was firmly established last year.

After an initial surge in new arrivals from eastern and central Europe after 10 new states joined the bloc in May 2004, the post-enlargement flow appears to have reached its peak in 2006 and has been easing steadily since then.

The number of citizens from the EU12 who claimed PPS numbers in the second half of 2008 was down 47 per cent on the same period in 2007.

The decline is partly explained by the contracting Irish economy and improvements in labour markets elsewhere.

Separate data shows that 2,092 work permits were issued to migrants from outside the EEA between January and March this year, a fall of 58 per cent on the same period in 2008.

These permits are granted for jobs that cannot be filled from within the EEA, and exclude labourers, childminders and most catering staff.

However, annual comparisons are complicated by an administrative change made in early 2007 that means work permits no longer need to be renewed each year.

Another downward trend, albeit less pronounced, can be seen in the asylum system, where 524 new claims for refugee status were made in the first two months of the year this is a 16 per cent fall on the equivalent figure last year.

Nigeria, at 24 per cent, was the top country of origin.

It was followed by Pakistan (12 per cent), China (6 per cent), Zimbabwe (5 per cent) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (4 per cent).

A general easing of the inward migration flow would be in keeping with overall international trends.

In Britain, which joined Ireland and Sweden in opening its labour market to new EU citizens in May 2004, the number of central and eastern Europeans going there to work dropped by 47 per cent as the economy moved into recession at the end of last year.

As is the case in Ireland, the fall was largely accounted for by a significant drop in the number of Poles.