position with the British empire was more ambiguous, and
immigration is largely unrelated to a colonial past. This is
qualified, however, by the significance of Irish missionary
endeavours in parts of the developing world, particularly
sub-Saharan Africa, which may evince a migration link that has
not been hitherto researched. This is particularly the case in
relation to Nigerian migration, where Irish missionary
activity in the sub-Saharan African country dates back to the
1860s, and as recently as the 1970s, there were 2,000 Irish
missionaries active in the country (Irish Aid 2004).
geographical position furthermore positions that country at
the margins of south-north movements from Africa to Western
Europe and east-west movements from Eastern to Western Europe,
while Portugal is at the frontline. Portugal therefore, like
Spain, is faced with the daily human tragedy of perilous boat
trips from North Africa to the Iberian Peninsula. Immigrants
from Lusophone countries in Africa, and from Brazil, benefit
from better rights than other immigrants. Nevertheless, the
number of Ukrainian immigrants has also increased
substantially in recent years, demonstrating the
characteristics of a classic chain migration. Due to
Ireland’s immigration policies (which generally parallel
those of the United Kingdom), rather than its geography,
migration from Eastern Europe has been dramatic since the
enlargement of the European Union in 2004 (Doyle, Hughes &
due to the remarkable success of the Irish economy, the extent
of overall migration to Ireland in proportion to the existing
population has been more dramatic than in Portugal. Currently,
the proportion of people living in Ireland who are not
citizens is over 10 percent, while the proportion of people
born outside Ireland is about 15 percent. In Portugal, the
foreign proportion of the population is just 4.2 percent,
though the country has a higher proportion of naturalised
citizens (see www.acidi.gov.pt).
academics, journalists and politicians cite the chronology of
Irish immigration as a reason for the lack of administrative
infrastructure to deal with the phenomenon. Immigration to
Ireland, so the apologia goes, has been so sudden that the
country simply has had neither the structures nor the funds to
deal with it. The Portuguese example belies the usefulness of
this explanation, as the Portuguese High Commission for
Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue was established just
nine years after Portugal began to experience net immigration.
Ireland has been experiencing net immigration for over ten
years now, and still no governmental structure is in place to
address issues arising from it. This situation has been
ameliorated somewhat by the recent appointment of a Minister
of State (or Junior Minister) for Integration by the Irish
Government in June 2007.
an era of increasing European political integration and
cooperation, it is clear that national policies on
trans-national issues such as migration and integration can no
longer be made in isolation. Furthermore, European countries
do not merely share a common political future, but can also
look back to a shared past. Portugal and Ireland experienced
large-scale emigration in previous centuries, yet the
twenty-first century has seen the two EU Member States become
receiving countries for intra- and inter-continental migrants.
Increased mobility within the European Union requires that
European countries work together on migration. Furthermore,
the commonalities and parallels between the experiences of
immigration among Western European countries indicate that
there is much to be learned through improved communication and
exchange of best practice.
such as Ireland and Portugal are accustomed to looking to
their larger neighbours for lessons on policy-making. This
short article posits that it is in comparing and sharing the
experiences of smaller countries currently undergoing the
transition from emigration to immigration and from economic
failure to economic success - two interrelated phenomena -
that real progress can be achieved. As mentioned elsewhere in
this edition of Irish
Migration Studies in Latin America, there is a mine of
historical information linking Ireland and Portugal that has
yet to be exploited. Perhaps the examination of links and
comparisons in the contemporary migration experience of the
two countries will also lead scholars back to previous
centuries in search of what unites these Atlantic outposts,
and what the future holds in store.
article draws on research conducted for the Immigrant Council
of Ireland and on ideas developed for a paper delivered at a
Seminar organised by the Alto Commissariado para a Imigração
e Diálogo Intercultural (High Commission for Immigration and
and hosted by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon in
July 2007. The author would like to thank both ICI and ACIDI
for their support.
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(13 August 2007). Website (http://www.acime.gov.pt/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1954),
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Naus (Lisbon: Dom Quixote, 2000). Fourth edition.
Antunes, António Lobo. The
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Portuguese Migrant Workers (Tyrone: Animate & South
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