Written Answers. - Emigration Policy.

Michael P. Kitt


54 Mr. M. Kitt asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the proposals, if any, there are from his Department or from any other Department regarding an overall policy on emigration. [6107/96]

The reduction or ending of involuntary emigration has been a policy objective of successive Irish Governments. The only effective solution is the creation of job opportunities in Ireland through the promotion of economic growth. This objective is at the top of this Government's priorities.

Our strategy for economic growth is working. Employment and incomes are increasing and, as a result, involuntary emigration has declined and the number of returning emigrants has increased. The Central Statistics Office estimates that average annual net emigration since 1991 has been less than 5,000; this compares with an annual average of about 27,000 in the years 1986 to 1991.

At the same time the Government is determined to support Irish emigrant communities and to reinforce the continuing ties with our emigrants. In this context the Minister for the Environment recently published a consultation document on the Representation of Emigrants in Seanad Éireann.

My Department and its embassies and consulates actively monitor legislative and other developments affecting Irish people wishing to emigrate or who are already abroad. When necessary, we make our interests known to other Governments and those with political influence in the countries concerned. Our diplomatic missions also co-operate closely with the voluntary groups in the Irish communities as well as themselves giving practical advice and assistance to emigrants.

Voluntary groups involved in the welfare of Irish immigrants in the US receive financial support from the Foreign Affairs Vote. In 1995, £150,000 was made available to such groups. A total of £180,000 is available this year for organisations in the US and Australia. This is the first year that assistance has been made available for groups in Australia involved in providing support to Irish immigrants. The Minister for Enterprise and Employment, on the advice of the London-based DION Committee, provides financial assistance to voluntary organisations providing practical advice and help to Irish emigrants in Britain. There is a provision of £500,000 for such grants this year.
Ensuring that professional advice and guidance are available beforehand to people considering working overseas is another important way in which the Government assists emigrants. FÁS, the training and employment authority, provides a comprehensive service in this regard.
The Interdepartmental Committee on Emigration, chaired by my Department, co-ordinates the activities of all relevant Government Departments and agencies in this important area.