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"No Blacks, No Dogs, No Poles."

by Colman Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:07:53 AM EST

A survey carried out by the Irish Times this week claims that 78% of Irish people would like to see a system of work permits introduced for immigrants from the 10 new EU member states. Ireland, Britain and Finland are the only three members to allow workers from the Eastern European states full freedom of movement.

The result has been that in a country where ten years ago any foreign face would have been remarkable away from the city centre has become a place where every daily task involves dealing with foreigners. Most of the supermarkets, shops and restaurants I frequent are staffed mainly by immigrants.


The Irish staff are either management, the very young or the old. Admittedly I live in a new suburb in a mixed socio-economic area - there are few native youngsters old enough to take these jobs - but the change is remarkable. Now, I'm not complaining: if we didn't have immigrants those checkouts would be empty and all the restaurants would be self-service or, more likely, cook-your-own-damn-food. Not to mention the improvement in the local scenery...

Unemployment in Ireland is around 4%, including long-term unemployed leftover from the bad old days that have probably never held much of a job in their lives and are very difficult to get into employment. The rate has actually fallen during the immigration boom. So what's the problem?

Just 23 per cent believe more foreign workers should be allowed come here, 41 per cent think there are now enough here and no more should be admitted, and 29 per cent believe there are too many foreign workers here and that steps should be taken to reduce their number. Some 7 per cent gave no opinion. There is a significantly higher desire for restrictions on foreign workers among the less well-of than the better-off. In the better-off ABC1 group, 30 per cent believe more foreign workers should be allowed come here, 41 per cent that there are now enough here and that no more should be permitted, and 20 per cent that there are too many and that steps should be taken to reduce their number. Some 10 per cent gave no opinion. (Irish Times (subs))

Support for work permits is, of course, highest among the working class.

The editorial in the same paper suggests that it is an unsurprising result in "a society in rapid transition which suffers from inadequate health, education and housing services." Housing is a particular problem. Rents are very high and house and apartment prices in even vaguely desirable areas are outside the means of people earning industrial wages - two-bedroom terraces in our area are reputedly selling for € 300,000 at the moment. We live an hour from the city centre. There is also a feeling that the immigrants are pushing down wages, though I suspect that, if anything, it would be more accurate to say that they are slowing the rise of wages. We have the following data:

In the lower-paid manufacturing sector, where some of the displacement is alleged to have occurred, the Irish Labour Market Review 2005 states that 2 per cent of manufacturing firms had production constrained due to difficulties in filling skilled and unskilled jobs. (Irish Times)

Perhaps the displacement is only affecting certain subsections of society?

The figures showed that for the year to December last year, 58,000 people were added to the labour force. Around 40,000 of those were migrant workers, while 18,000 were non-migrants. Many of these indigenous workers were older people choosing to go back to work and married women entering or returning to the workforce.

There's no sign of high youth unemployment, no sign that those who want to return to work are being displaced - my mother has two part-time jobs - and a decrease in unemployment. So there's no immediate rational reason for the attitudes showing up.

The real issue is fear. Irish society has changed immensely in the last generation. When I left school in 1988 the expectation still was that we would have to emigrate to get jobs. Mine was the last generation that had to travel as students to get half-decent summer jobs. By the time I left college there weren't enough people to fill the available jobs. I find the changes need some effort to deal and I'm well-educated, well-off and fairly cosmopolitan and foreign born. I can read the statistics and understand them. I'm not in competition with the vast majority of the immigrants. I don't feel I'm being left behind by the changes in society or in the economy - I'm benefiting from them. I spent most of my time in primary school in a mixed race school in London. I'm still overwhelmed by the newness of it all. (My main problem is etiquette though - how to maintain my customary gruff expression without letting it seem as if it's because the person is an immigrant. Maybe I need a badge or something - "It's not you, I don't like people.")

However if I was struggling, working in an unrewarding and poorly paid job and barely maintaining a reasonable life style I might feel differently. I might feel that I'd be paid more if there were less immigrants. I might feel my child would have been seen more quickly in the hospital if the immigrants weren't clogging up the system. I might not know that the problem with hospitals is simply that we closed wards in the 1980s and have never reopened them. I might not know that the health system is massively inefficient largely because it was used as a source of "jobs for the boys" by politicians around the country.

There is a perception that a lot of the immigrants are being paid less than minimum wage and that under the counter. This needs to be combatted by much stronger enforcement of employment law to ensure that the immigrants are competing on a fair basis with the natives. Not that there aren't a lot of natives doing exactly the same thing. The unions have responded to the issue largely on this basis - apparently they have been making a point of recruiting immigrant organisers and running "know your rights" campaigns.

There is a real danger that if we don't act quickly and carefully there will be a growth of real hostility to immigrants, especially when there is a downturn in the economy. The irony of the Irish, who suffered real racism abroad when we had to emigrate to survive - my title is taken from infamous signs in 60's England - fortifying against immigrants would be painful. I'd hate to see the title of this story on a real sign.

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One of the reasons I don't write many stories about Ireland is that they're just so damn depressing.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:16:26 AM EST
I love Ireland, there are a few places in the world where I feel instantly at home, and Ireland is one of them, it's just so damn (and I apologise for the use of the word) nice... :)
by Samir on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:23:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There have been similar complaints in the UK, mainly from the towns that have been most successful at attracting people to migrate there. I think that the UK government at least did undestimate the number of economic migrants that would move to the country, I think they've also understimated how many will stay.

As for Ireland I was recently in Galway and was taken aback by the house prices, very rarely do I go to a country where the prices seem ridiculous compared to England!! :)

by Samir on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:21:50 AM EST
Unbelievable, aren't they? We're not that well paid.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:23:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I nearly fell over when I looked in an estate agents window.
by Samir on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:28:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't been in Galway for a while. How bad were they?

I remember the horror when I realised that, for half the price of our house, we could buy a studio apartment on the Ile St Louis in Paris. "Equivalent" studios in Dublin would be twice the price.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:30:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well a "family" home was around 400,000 to 600,000 euro, and land was hugely expensive per acre i think around the 150k mark, (which is a lot for a rural plot)
by Samir on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:33:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Meeep. That's almost as bad as Dublin.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:33:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you get more for your money maybe, the houses are pretty big
by Samir on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:37:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I saw a graph in the FT today that said that about 80% of Ireland's industry is foreign-owned (as opposed to about a third in the UK and France, and less than 10% in Germany and Japan).

I'll scan it and post at some point.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:38:43 AM EST
I think that probably means that 80% of Ireland's GDP (or whatever) is produced by foreign companies.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 06:07:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have seen Irish people get angry about this immigration; but they have never got angry at me - One of the advantages of being a Scot in Ireland I woudl guess.

It is no surprise that the it is working class, native born Irish citizens who are calling for the most draconian restrictions. They are the ones who are at the coal face. It is into the working class communities that the immigrants are living; and they are taking the working class jobs.

I don't think the Irish are unique in this experience.

As the introduction would My own experience is slightly different. As a middle class economic migrant: I emigrated to Ireland for a nice white collar job that is well paid and has good health insurance. The only other migrants I meet who are like me are French people  - There are two French chaps in my team and I have a French flatmate.

I would say that, for the most part, Ireland response to this immigration - such as the active recruitment of immigrants into the Garda ( the Coppers ) and a strong anti-racist voice that is given the space to be heard - is markedly better than the response of the country I left.

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying

by RogueTrooper on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 06:54:38 AM EST
You barely count as foreign. They generally won't take against other old-EU members either, though the Spanish get  a little of it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 07:16:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unless they're Galician (celt) or Basque.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 07:20:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah, depends how brown they are I'm afraid - I've heard of some of the Spanish immigrants getting hassle from batshit crazy taxi drivers, that sort of thing. I don't think there's much of it, but there is a little.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 07:29:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally I've never had any racist comments in Ireland,   we did have a B&B refuse to let us a room because we're gay though!
by Samir on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 08:04:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<sigh>

There was a time when you'd have trouble with B&B's because you weren't married. Even if you weren't gay.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 08:06:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't worry about it mate, every other one we've stayed at couldn't have cared less :)
by Samir on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 08:08:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm just hoping it was run by some obvious old biddy who screeched that you'd burn for your sins. I'd hate for you to have missed the full experience.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 08:09:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope, quite the opposite, i've never seen someone look so embarrased in my life, I thought it was really amusing
by Samir on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 08:20:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They can't do anything right.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 08:22:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting diary, Colman.

As you note, the human fear of change is a big part of it. And the lower down the economic scale you are, the more likely you are to one day find yourself sat in a council/welfare/doctor's waiting room and notice that many of the people around you look like immigrants.

The housing issue is a real problem too, do you think it is planning restrictions or just a shortage of land for sale?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 07:36:52 AM EST
Pure demand. We can't build fast enough to keep up: young population, pent-up demand from the bad old days, immigrants who need housing. Couple that with the general property bubble world-wide and new and funky financial instruments and low interest rates and nothing will stop house prices getting high. Oh, and the Irish love their houses. There isn't a tradition of apartment living at all.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 07:41:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I can understand that demand is the big issue, but the prices Samir was quoting for plots of land seemed to indicate that building speed was not the only problem. (Indeed, given the spare capacity in the UK building trade at the moment, I reckon it's fair to say that either UK builders are missing out on a good market or land prices make building in Ireland less profitable than it would seem at first sight.)
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 07:47:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We're also trying to keep some semblance of planning so there is a problem with land. And we can't build the infrastructure quickly enough either. Land is no good unless it has sewers and electricity and roads.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 07:49:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh indeed. I didn't mean to imply that the planning restrictions were a bad thing, just curious about their role.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 07:56:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I couldn't have imagined not commenting on this diary as I am a Pole, spent years among Black people and love dogs :)

The real issue is fear

You're making a key point there.
In Ivory Coast, racism towards the French expatriates was not obvious until 2000. I cannot consider as granted that it did not exist altogether, but was not outwardly expressed.
In 2000, the French started being perceived as representatives of a country mixing up in the internal political affairs of Ivory Coast. Before that, the French were welcome as they taught at the high schools and universities that allowed locals to get a good education. The difference in the level of education implied that competition for jobs before or after the political shift and the beginning of the civil war was not an issue.

In France, a significant Polish community settled in 3 to 4 generations as they immigrated to work in Nord Pas-de-Calais and Alsace Lorraine regions, in the mining and textile manufacturing sectors. Today, newly settled immigrants make up a sizeable part of the manual workers in the construction sector. I do not have the feeling that the French consider them as taking jobs away from them, but I may be wrong on that plus we are too busy ranting against Arabic immigration.


When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 11:17:02 AM EST
The xenophobia in Ivory Coast is not just directed at the French.  Under Houphouet-Boingy, Ivory Coast was perfectly happy to have Burkinabe and Liberians doing all their manual labor for decades, forming the backbone of the Ivorian economy.  But when cocoa prices fell and the economy slumped, the foreigners became seen as "a burden" or a drain on the economy, never mind that they had helped build it.

And when the war started all the blame was placed squarely on everyone else -- certainly it wasn't the Ivorians' fault, it's those outsiders causing all the problems.  Ivoirité became the mantra, and they turned on all the foreigners, both African and European.  Abidjan in 2002/2003 was a very uncomfortable place to be Liberian.  Or Burkinabe.  Or Malian.  Or Guinean.  Or just about anything other than a southern Ivorian, really.

As they were tearing themselves apart -- and make no mistake, they were tearing themselves apart -- I asked many Ivorians whether they were worried about repeating what had happened in neighboring Liberia.  Their response, almost always, was, "We are not Liberian.  We aren't like them.  We won't be that way."

As you said, hatred of The Other is so often rooted in fear and insecurity, and in the inability to acknowledge the failings of one's own society....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 03:36:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a very interesting comment. It seems you have quite a good insight into the situation in Cote d'Ivoire. Happy to know that. I lived there for almost ten years as a child and a teenager and will very much welcome sharing views with you. Did you have a chance to run through the diaries on the subject ?

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:15:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I remember seeing one diary, but I haven't gone in search of them.  I have to admit that Ivory Coast is not my favorite topic, mainly because it makes me so mad.  In that way, I might wish I understood it less well.

I only spent maybe three months there, actually, in late 2002 and early 2003; I keep hearing from friends who lived there in the 80s and early 90s about what a fabulous city Abidjan was then, "the Paris of West Africa," etc., but nothing could have been further from my experience.  By the time I got there, everyone who had the means to leave was leaving.

Later, I was living in South Africa when Mbeki (on behalf of the African Union) made his attempt at salvaging the Ivorian peace process.  It was a total flop; the South African government both misunderstood the basic roots of the conflict and overestimated the Ivorian government's desire to end it.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:58:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Le Canard Enchainé regularly unearthes articles form the 30s which sound like racist stuff about the Arabs today ("they don't look like us, they bring their religion with them, they are absolutists about it, they don't want to integrate, they look different, they give crazy first names to their kids") - but are about the Poles - or the Italians...

So I am not too worried today about integration. We'll manage.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:13:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agnes, I have put this comment here for reasons that will become obvious.

Earlier this week there was a long item on the BBC London local TV news about people who had left well paid jobs in finance in the City of London to get even better paid skilled manual jobs. The wages were so high because of the lack of skilled staff. Unfortunately for them the  whole thing has crashed because of skilled workers coming in from the Accession 10. The TV piece showed how these tradesmen were facing competition from A10 workers in the shape of plumbers - yes you've guessed it! From Poland!!

by Londonbear on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 02:29:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No kidding !

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 04:07:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is their any chance of restrictions being enacted any time soon? Considering that in five years time all EU countries will have to lift all restrictions on new member citizens the debate will be moot in a few years.
by MarekNYC on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 11:26:27 AM EST
No, I don't think so.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 11:28:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you think people are cranky now, think how they'd be when there's only one check-out desk open due to a shortage of staff.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 11:30:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no way it can happen. The EU Commission is expected to report in favour of ending the restrictions now, and most member states will want to keep them for 3 more years, but then they'll have to make a specia case to go beyond 5 years and I don't think that will fly. As for introducing a derogation in Ireland after two years, it's next to impossible.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 11:35:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That sounds right. I'm more worried about the management of the issue than actual restrictions.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 11:39:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman, you couldn't have put the information and the attitudes better. Thanks for addressing this topic! Another proof that the ever-closer Union is turning into a fortress both on the outside and on the inside, too.
I was thinking of going to Ireland to work for the summer...ooops, and I am from Eastern Europe (not a Pole though, but still I guess you have enough people like me there anyway;)). The agency I turned to told me that the minimum wage I could get is 7.5.euro per hour and that is a lot of money for me compared to what I would get if I get a summer job in my own country. But I guess that is reality, and I understand- nobody wants foreigners, who, apart from having an awful accent, also work their butts off for less, and then the local people complain. If this were happening in my own country people would openly hate it! Guess I'm going to the States for another year..I have tuition to pay so that I can get a better and well-paid job when I graduate!

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde
by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 09:59:27 AM EST
Well, it's not as bad as that: in fact I'd be surprised if you managed to experience any overt racism at all and you'd probably find a job. There isn't a huge problem yet - the main issue is actually exploitation of desperate immigrants rather than anything else - but it could become a problem in the future and needs to carefully managed now. It's education that's needed.

It's not a problem yet - come on over.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 11:29:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not saying is bad, and if I were determined to go, nothing could have stopped me. The thing is that I rather prefer the well-known to the unknown. Never been in Ireland...maybe I will go there someday, but with a diploma in my hands...is there a demand for East European journalists with American education over there?:)

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde
by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 12:35:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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