Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Irish Communities Abroad
90. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when the last meeting of the Interdepartmental Committee on Diaspora Policy was held; if engagement has taken place since with groups that work with returning Irish citizens to address the shortcomings experienced in the areas of visa processing times for non-European Union spouses, foreign birth registrations and the application of the habitual residence condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22997/22]
The most recent in-person meeting of the Interdepartmental Committee on Diaspora Policy took place in February 2021. Two subsequent in-person meetings were postponed due to Covid restrictions with discussions taking place online at official level. The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled to take place at the end of this month.
The new Diaspora Strategy 2020-2025 pledges to monitor barriers to returning emigrants and undertakes to adopt measures to remove them where possible as well as to improve the provision of information to our communities abroad on returning to Ireland.
To this end, my Department continually engages with other Government Departments and Agencies as well as with a broad range of organisations both in Ireland and overseas, to support returning Irish citizens and their families. In 2021 the Government provided over €850,000 to such partner organisations, representing nearly 10% of all annual funding provided through the Emigrant Support Programme. On the issues outlined by the Deputy my Department is working with our partner support organisations such as Crosscare, Safe Home and the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres to identify and address, with the relevant Government Departments and Agencies, the obstacles with that emigrants, and more especially their family members, can face when returning home.
The Government focus over the past two years has been on the immediate response to Covid, to ensure our emigrants and diaspora were receiving the immediate help and support required. Now that we are fortunately moving on from the worst impact of the pandemic, the Interdepartmental Committee will again become the key driver across Government for further measures to ease the process of return for our emigrants. An increase in the number of returning emigrants is expected now that the travel restrictions imposed by Covid are being lifted.
The response to Covid and in recent weeks to the situation in Ukraine has shown that Government Departments are responsive as urgent needs arise. I am hopeful we will see a continuation of that flexibility when it comes to supporting our returning emigrants who have been through much hardship by being separated from family and friends over the past two years.