Celebrating Africa Day in Limerick were , back row, - Leonie Kerins, Doras Luimni, Jules Olivier Djiopang and Sylvanie Nono with front, Abigail Nono, John Njutekpor and David Idioh
A STRONG message is contained in Belonging to Limerick, which sets out Limerick’s policy on integration, that those who choose to come to live, work and study in Limerick from other countries are part of the solution.
“Limerick can benefit from the skills, the languages, the capacities and the new approaches of migrants,” said Anne Rizzo, a senior officer in the Community Development section of Limerick City and County Council.
She was outlining the council’s integration plan 2017-2021 called Belonging to Limerick.
The aim of the plan, she said, is to promote a vibrant, inclusive and intercultural Limerick city and county in which all residents belong and are equally valued, regardless of their nationality, religion or ethnic background.
“We need to continue to change the narrative and focus on the positive side of the balance sheet,” she pointed out.
“Migrants are part of the solution and diversity is an advantage. Migration and diversity are good for business, for innovation, for education, for community and for life.”
Diversity is now a reality in Limerick with 18,476 people or one in ten of those living here from non-Irish backgrounds.
According to the 2016 census, 18,476 people have different nationalities while a further 3,239 claim dual Irish nationality out of a population of 192, 304.
OECD research, Ms Rizzo explained, has demonstrated the economic benefits of immigration in different countries e.g. boosting the working age population and becoming net contributors to the economy.
Belonging to Limerick will focus on different groups of migrants and their families and includes migrant workers, international students, undocumented or trafficked people, refugees as well as asylum seekers.
The plan, Ms Rizzo explained has five main themes or planks. One is to provide language, education and job opportunities so that Limerick is seen as a place to learn and work for people migrating to here. Another is to support people, providing information or advice.
A third element is ensuring equal access to public services while a fourth element is raising cultural awareness and fostering anti-racism, ensuring Limerick is a place to belong.
Active Community Participation is the final element.
Resources, human and otherwise, are key to implementing the plan, Ms Rizzo explained. Up to now, much of the work was done on a voluntary basis but this was not sustainable in the long-term, she said.