Ireland's ESRI urges limited immigration from Bulgaria, Romania

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In a report published today, the institute recommended that Ireland take „pause” in its „highly liberal” immigration policy to maintain an orderly inflow of migrant workers. Ireland, one of only three EU countries that allowed free access for citizens from the 10 nations that joined the bloc in 2004, has seen its population grow almost 10% in the last five years, boosted by immigration. That's helped fill jobs in an economy growing twice the pace of the euro-area average. „We have been very lucky; immigration has been very positive for Ireland,” said Alan Barrett, senior research officer at the ESRI in Dublin. „We don't want to send out an anti-immigration message, but there should be a pause, to review the situation in regard to the impacts on the economy and society.” Ireland's economy has expanded an average of 7.5% a year in the last decade, more than three times the average in the 12-nation euro area. At the same time, the population has increased 1.6% a year, the fastest pace in the EU, according to the country's statistics office. Around 9.4% of people living in Ireland are non-Irish nationals, the 2006 census shows, compared with 5.8% in 2002. „The inflow into Ireland occurred during a period of rapid economic growth, so any impacts observed to date may not hold” if growth slows, the ESRI said in the report.
The UK and Sweden were the only other countries that chose not to limit immigration from the 2004 entrants. UK Home Secretary John Reid on September 19 said the UK needs to „manage immigration carefully, including in respect of the forthcoming decisions over Romania and Bulgaria,” suggesting Britain might limit immigration from those countries. The ESRI predicts Ireland's economy will expand 5.9% this year and 5% in 2007. Unemployment will average 4.4% both years, the institute said in today's report. „If it turns out that the next few years are bumper years of economic growth, it could be the case that significant numbers of people from Bulgaria and Romania would be admitted under a permit or green-card program,” Barrett said. „We should avoid locking into a policy that could be very difficult to turn around.” (Bloomberg)

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