Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (100)

Joe Higgins

Question:

97 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government will fully implement the report of the task force on emigrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2585/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I welcomed the task force's report which sets the issue of emigration in a forward-looking context and provides a template for addressing the needs of the Irish abroad in the future.

The report contains 71 proposals covering a wide range of areas. I have begun to implement the report and action is currently being taken on over two-thirds of the recommendations. Some of them fall within the areas of responsibility of other Departments and I have asked those Departments to examine the relevant recommendations to determine what progress has already been made in implementing them and what further progress could be made in the future.

I was pleased to announce before Christmas that I secured an additional provision of €1 million in the Estimates for my Department for services to emigrants in 2004. This brings the overall expenditure on emigrants services this year to just over €4 million, an increase of one-third on 2003.

I intend that, in allocating the additional funds, they will be focused on improving services for the neediest and the most vulnerable among our emigrants, particularly in Britain, in line with the recommendations of the task force report.

I also intend to give priority assistance to elderly and returning emigrants, capacity building of the voluntary agencies involved and projects to promote more effective networking and information sharing between them.

During the course of the year, I intend to establish a dedicated unit in the Department of Foreign Affairs to work with the voluntary agencies at home and abroad to maximise the impact of our collective efforts.

I will continue to implement the report of the task force and to work in partnership with the governments of the countries concerned and with voluntary Irish agencies at home and abroad, to support our emigrants overseas.