Support for returning Irish emigrants

Thursday, 28 February, 2019
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Crosscare Migrant Project is an Irish non-profit organisation. A project of Crosscare (the social support agency of the Dublin Archdiocese), we are part of a global network of Irish organisations funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Emigrant Support Programme to support Irish emigrants. Previously named ‘Emigrant Advice’, we were established in 1987 and we are unique in working in all areas of Irish migration – including emigration, return migration, and immigration.

A small team of 7 people based in Dublin, we provide general information, advocacy and referral support via a face-to-face drop-in service, by phone or email, and via our website. For Irish emigrants thinking of coming back to Ireland, we provide tailored information to support them to make an informed decision about their prospective return.  We advocate on behalf of people experiencing difficulties in accessing statutory assistance upon return, such as homeless and housing supports, social welfare payments, and medical cards. Many of the people we work with have returned in crisis - including families returning from conflict zones, deportees, former prisoners, Irish travellers, victims of domestic violence, and isolated older people.  

Picture below: Meeting Minister Ciaran Cannon in 2018, Crosscare Migrant Project’s Danielle McLaughlin (Policy Officer), Sarah Owen (Irish Abroad Networking Officer) and Richard King (Project Leader)

CrossCare meeting Minister Ciaran Cannon

According to figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in August 2018, for the first time since 2009 more Irish emigrants are returning to Ireland than leaving.  The CSO’s Population and Migration estimates (below) show that in the year to April 2018 that there were 28,400 Irish nationals who came to Ireland, and 28,300 Irish nationals who emigrated from Ireland. The margin of difference between immigration and outward migration is quite small at just 100 people, but this is very much in keeping with our experience as we are seeing more and more people contacting us with queries about returning to Ireland.

Irish migration trends 2012-2018
  2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Estimated outward migration of Irish nationals 49,700 48,300 45,000 42,500 37,100 30,800 28,300
Estimated inward migration of Irish nationals 20,100 21,700 22,800 26,600 28,400 27,400 28,400

People return to Ireland for many differents reasons, but in our experience family is often at the heart of this decision. With changes such as Brexit and the presidency in the USA, there is speculation that the numbers of returning Irish emigrants will increase, however there is a question as to whether all of those who return choose to stay in Ireland long term. We know that people who return can experience difficulties readjusting to life in Ireland, and through our work with returning Irish emigrants in vulnerable situations we are acutely aware of the challenges facing people who require emergency assistance upon return.

We work to raise these challenges as part of our social policy initiatives aiming to grow awareness and effect positive change at a higher level. Most recently in November 2018 we met the Joint Oireachtas Committee for the Department of Foreign Affairs (see above) to discuss the ongoing needs of returning Irish emigrants in Ireland alongside our Emigrant Support Programmed funded colleagues Safe Home Ireland and Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas. We have also just met with representatives of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to raise the findings of our ‘A hundred thousand welcomes?’ report into barriers to social welfare access for returned emigrants.

If you or someone you know is thinking about returning to Ireland consult our website for information on where to begin your journey. You can also get in touch by email ( or phone (+353 (0) 1 873 2844) with queries, as well as follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.