Building a Welcoming Community

Navigation Menu

Why do people migrate?

People have moved from their home countries for centuries, for all sorts of reasons. Some are drawn to new places by ‘pull ‘ factors, others find it difficult to remain where they are and migrate because of ‘push’ factors. These have contributed to the recent movement of people here but are also the reason why people from here have emigrated to other countries.


Q Who is an immigrant?
AThis term has been applied to all people coming into the country to work, but it is now often applied to people who intend to settle and integrate here, as opposed to being a more temporary ‘migrant worker’. It is important not to view people who are part of long-established ethnic communities and populations as ‘immigrants’.

Q Who is a migrant worker?
Someone who leaves their country with the intention of seeking work elsewhere. In practice the words are usually applied today to people who do not intend to remain permanently in the host country.

Q Who is an economic migrant?
Anyone who moves from their home country to improve their economic situation can be termed an ‘economic migrant’. This term is sometimes used in a derogatory way, to throw suspicion on people’s motives in seeking asylum. In fact, poverty and economic deprivation, as well as violence, are tools of those who persecute individuals and groups of people. Most economic migrants simply seek a better life for themselves and their families, as many people from Ireland have done for generations.

Q Who is an asylum seeker?
Someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution by reason of their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion, in their own country, and seeks refuge in another country.

Q Who is a refugee?
ASomeone who applies for asylum, and is successful in being granted refugee status, under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to Refugees. ‘Refugee’ is also the general term for all people who have been displaced from their own countries by persecution, war and civil unrest.

*The term ‘asylum seeker’ is now regarded by many people as a depersonalising term of abuse, often associated with the word ‘bogus’. We try to use the phrase, ‘person seeking asylum’. Similarly, the broad-brush term, ‘illegal immigrant’ is best replaced by the more objective words, ‘undocumented person’. How can a human being be illegal?

Inward migration today

Although we have always been more aware of people leaving, there have always been incomers to Ireland, for political, economic and social reasons and in order to find sanctuary; there are just more today. Read more


Moving countries brings challenges. Migration deprives people of community until they build social links and find their place in their new surroundings. Migrant workers with secure jobs, steady incomes, and good command of English find it much easier to feel comfortable in local communities. They find it even easier if they are met half way, with acceptance and respect. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Immigration policies and how they are enforced (see below), the length of time it takes to get the security of citizenship, workplace exploitation and lack of recognition of qualifications, negative attitudes and opinions and racism, and difficulties with language (including accessing appropriate and affordable English classes) can all contribute to unhappy experiences. Even something simple like crossing the border can be an issue for people who are subject to immigration control. Some people have health problems and an unfortunate few experience poverty and destitution. When newcomers are asked about their lives here, however, they report a great variety of experiences– many of them very positive as well as negative.