An article in the Irish Independent suggests that government policies aimed at encouraging emigrants to return may increase tensions between emigrants and residents who never left.
Citing competition for jobs and housing as being primary points of potential resentment, writer Claire McCormack outlines the uptick in returnees:
Over the last 12 months, there has been a steady increase in numbers of expats returning home. Approximately 250,000 left during the downturn but around 120,000 have already come back. Some are coming from the UK and Canada but the majority are leaving Australia.
Marriage, a desire to raise their families in Ireland, and the responsibility of caring for aging parents are among the main reasons for their return. Australia’s economy has also dipped. Industries benefiting most from the arrival of highly- skilled, internationally seasoned workers include banking, financial services, IT, law and engineering.
McCormack writes of the potential for “ruffled feathers”, noting difficulties of assimilating foreign-born children, unwelcoming attitudes from coworkers, difficulties reconnecting socially, and accusations that emigrants abandoned the country in difficult times. The article also quotes several experts who express some doubt that the return drives will work at bringing people home. It also quotes Karen McHugh, the CEO of Safe Home, who noted older emigrants feel neglected by the government: “the older group of emigrants have definitely been forgotten, any diaspora policy is all about getting the upwardly mobile, educated and qualified back. Even though there might be some mention of this group, in practice we’re finding it very difficult”. McCormack adds, “Barriers this group face include: qualifying for housing needs, applying for pensions and accessing entitlements.”
McCormack’s article highlights the need for emigrants to be engaged in the discourse about their future. Emigrants should be able to have their own needs and aspirations represented in the political system. While this is particularly clear at a time when the government is seeking to bring them back, it is important to remember that there are many policy decisions that affect can emigrants at any stage of the economic cycle – and when emigrants are deprived of a voice in the political process, it ensures that politicians and the public will be less informed, policy makers will find it harder to adequately address their needs, and these non-resident citizens are likely to suffer the consequences.