Support services for foreign nationals in Ireland
There is a range of supports for foreign nationals in Ireland and this document is an overview of some of the various public and voluntary supports available. People come to Ireland from other countries for a variety of reasons - for example, as tourists or short-term visitors. Many foreign nationals are working or studying here while others have retired to Ireland. Some people may intend to apply for internationa protection. If you are moving to Ireland you may need to find out information about living here including housing, residence rights, health services and employment.
Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office
The Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office (GRIDO) is responsible for advising, monitoring and co-ordinating police activity around racial, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. A recording mechanism captures data concerning racially motivated incidents. This data is made available to all Garda stations in the State so every incident is logged and reports and complaints can be tracked. Ethnic Liaison Officers (ELOs) monitor racist incidents. They also liaise with representatives of the various minority communities and with victims of racist incidents to ensure that they are afforded adequate protection. GRIDO maintains relationships with all communities through initiatives which promote mutual awareness and understanding. Links have also been established with services providing support to victims of crime concerning racial issues.
Irish Tourist Assistance Service
Taking basic precautions can help you avoid being a victim of crime. However, if you have experienced crime, the Irish Tourist Assistance Service (ITAS) can be of help. ITAS is a free nationwide service offering support and assistance to tourists who are victimised while visiting Ireland. It can liaise with embassies or consulates, help with language difficulties, deal with medical needs, arrange accommodation or meals if needed and help to replace stolen travel tickets. Note that ITAS does not provide financial assistance to victims of crime, replace lost or stolen items or offer legal or insurance advice.
Foreign embassies and consulates
There are a number of foreign embassies and consulates in Ireland that provide consular services to nationals of their country. These services include advice and practical help with travel documentation. If you lose your passport or travel documentation when you are in Ireland, you will need to contact your country’s embassy or consulate. It can issue you with temporary travel documents. Your embassy or consulate can also be of assistance to you in the case of a medical emergency. They can advise relatives or friends about accidents or illnesses, act as a liaison with hospitals and doctors and arrange for interpretative services, if necessary. If you are the victim of a crime while in Ireland, your embassy or consulate can liaise with local police and let your friends and family know of your situation. Likewise, if you have been arrested or imprisoned, your embassy or consulate can put you in contact with suitable legal representation, ensure that your rights are respected and advise you of your entitlements. If a member of your family dies while abroad, your embassy or consulate can assist you in dealing with the formalities, such as death certificates and police reports.
Immigrant Council of Ireland
The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) is an independent, national organisation which supports migrants coming to Ireland for purposes such as work, study, family reunification, self-employment or to visit. The ICI provides an information service and a limited legal service to immigrants. It also offers a training service, organises public events and produces publications on immigrant issues such as citizenship and residence rights, visas, employment permits, family reunification and voluntary return. The ICI works with immigrant groups to try to influence government policy on issues relating to immigrants and to campaign for immigrants' rights. It has produced a directory of migrant-led organisations, which is a resource for people seeking contacts within the migrant communities, with the media, service providers or businesses. The ICI runs regular clinics for migrant workers, offering free and confidential employment law advice.
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) is a national organisation providing support to migrant workers and their families. It targets families in vulnerable circumstances and tries to improve their social and economic conditions. The MRCI's drop-in centre provides information, advice and assistance. The MRCI also encourages migrants to get involved in their community and actively participate in all levels of society.
Crosscare Migrant Project
Crosscare Migrant Project provides information, support and advocacy to migrants. Its information and referral service is available to immigrants and members of new communities living in Ireland, as well as to intending, existing and returning Irish emigrants. Its website livinginireland.ie is a guide to all aspects of living in Ireland and is available in English, Somali and Chinese.
Reception and Integration Agency
The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is responsible for co-ordinating the provision of services to both asylum seekers and people granted international protection (refugee status or subsidiary protection) in Ireland. It deals with integration policy for people who have international protection and people who have been granted leave to remain in the State. It arranges accommodation and works with statutory and non-statutory agencies to co-ordinate the delivery of other services (including health, social services, welfare and education) for asylum seekers and people who have international protection. The RIA is also responsible for responding to crisis situations that result in large numbers of refugees arriving in Ireland within a short period of time.
Scheme of repatriation
The Reception and Integration Agency works with the Department of Social Protection (DSP) to support the repatriation of nationals of newer EU member states. The scheme applies to people who have failed the habitual residence condition attaching to social assistance payments. Any citizen of a former EU accession state, and certain other ‘special-case’ EU nationals, who find themselves destitute during their time in Ireland can apply for repatriation. If you wish to apply for this scheme you should contact the DSP's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer).
Scheme of voluntary assisted return
If you are an asylum seeker or an irregular migrant from a non-EEA state, and you wish to return voluntarily to your country of origin but do not have the means to do so, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) may be able to assist you to return home. The IOM is an independent international organisation working in the field of migration - see 'Where to apply' below. Its Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Scheme can help you with appropriate travel documentation and arrange for transit and arrival assistance if needed. When you travel with the IOM, you travel independently and without an escort. The reasons for your stay in Ireland remain confidential and are not shared with anybody outside the voluntary return process. If you return voluntarily and you have no outstanding criminal court proceedings, you may apply to re-enter Ireland legally for the purpose of work, study, etc.
Citizens Information is a comprehensive source of information on public services in Ireland including issues such as residence rights, employment rights, health services, housing, social security entitlements and general information about moving to Ireland. Citizens Information is available by telephone through the Citizens Information Phone Service or in person by calling to a Citizens Information Centre (CIC) near you - see 'Where to apply' below.
How to apply
If you are ordinarily resident in Ireland you are entitled to public health services on the same basis as Irish nationals. Further information on health services is available from your Local Health Office.
If you are entitled to a social welfare payment in Ireland, you will need to visit your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.
If you are homeless, you should contact your local authority for information about accommodation. Threshold, a voluntary organisation, provides advice and support to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. You can also get advice about your situation from your nearest Citizens Information Centre.