Local authorities vital for migrant integration

Comment & Opinion

Guest columnist
Brian Killoran

We in the Immigrant Council of Ireland last week launched a report at our Intergration Matters Conference in Limerick, and it is clear from its content that more work could be done by local authorities to improve integration within staffing, diversity and corporate structures.
The report, which was launched in Limerick, found that just three of the 25 local authorities surveyed employ a stand-alone integration officer.  
The survey was created to gauge the extent to which local authorities engage with the process of migration integration. It is part of the ‘Indicators for Local Integration (ILI) Index’ which seeks to measure progress in the area of migrant integration and to support local authorities in designing and implementing integration strategies.  
25 local authorities responded to the survey which looks at the role of local authorities in migrant integration, their relevant policies and practices, and the extent of data collection on integration at local authority level.
Just three out of the 25 local authorities surveyed employ a stand-alone integration officer, one of which is permanent and two are funded by the local authorities themselves.  
Of the five key areas identified in the survey - intercultural awareness, anti-racism and unconscious bias, diversity and equality, migrant integration and public sector duty - just one local authority provides mandatory staff training in all areas. In contrast, 13 local authorities (52 percent) do not require staff training in any of these areas.
Ten local authorities do not have a current migrant integration strategy. Of those, four have never had a strategy; three indicated that they are currently developing their migrant integration strategy; while a further three previously had a strategy but it has not been updated. Of the 15 local authorities with a current migrant integration strategy, four are due to expire in 2022.
No local authority scored more than 52 percent in the survey responses on data collection. The average score across all local authorities was only 23 percent. The areas that have seen the most progress since the establishment of the National Migrant Integration Strategy in 2017 are Tackling Racism, Voting and Local Migrant Integration Strategies.
It is now clear that the work of local authorities in migrant integration has never been more important than in 2022. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to tens of thousands of people seeking refuge and support in local communities across Ireland. This, coupled with rising numbers of international protection applicants, has placed more and more demands on the work of local authorities, city and county councils.  
Migration and integration are key areas which need to be at the forefront of all of our minds at community, regional and national level. But ultimately, integration happens in our local communities. This survey indicated that while progress has been made in developing policies and practices to support migrant integration, there is still work to do. A key area of concern highlighted by the survey results is the lack of data collection by local authorities. Collection and measurement of data is the only way to guarantee that services are reaching migrant communities and that integration strategies are actually working, so we urge local authorities to ensure that the relevant data is collected on migration and integration.
 We have carried out the survey with the aim of establishing a baseline of what is working and what isn’t, what gaps exist, and how positive initiatives developed in one area can be shared with others. We hope that the findings of the survey, in conjunction with the ‘Indicators for Local Integration (ILI) Index’, will provide support to local authorities to progress their integration strategies and work towards building a more inclusive society.

Brian Killoran is Chief Executive Officer of the Immigrant Council of Ireland