The Republic of Ireland and Scotland share a complex and closely intertwined history of immigration and emigration; and both countries now face similar challenges in relation to managing and incorporating immigrants, and responding to the issues around borders and migration raised by Brexit. Yet despite an increasing focus on the topic of migration in Scotland and Ireland respectively, remarkably little is known of the similarities and dissimilarities, or indeed connections, in the form and content of migration in these two cases. The Scottish and Irish Migration Initiative (SIMI) is geared to addressing these questions, through forms of comparative analysis focusing squarely on the migration histories and current experiences of migrants in both countries, and on the policy and governance challenges raised by contemporary migration.
Scotland and the Republic of Ireland each have long histories of emigration, and both the island of Ireland (the Republic and Northern Ireland) and Scotland have experienced significant immigration since the enlargement of the EU in 2004 (as well as attracting migrants from many other countries including England). Set against this prevailing context, Brexit presents challenges to our understanding of the ways new borders are likely to impact on the lives of migrants as well as upon the lives of majority populations in Scotland and Ireland. Both are countries with similar populations.
SIMI research is animated by an interest in how the experiences of immigrants, and the social, economic and cultural impacts of migration, can help reconfigure conceptions of identity, membership and governance. Rather than focusing solely on immigrant experiences, or on governance of migration, we are keen to explore the complex inter-connections between the two.
Migration scholars based across University College Dublin and the University of Edinburgh will engage in collaboration and discussion on a range of themes and topics, including:
Comparative Diasporas: How do understandings of diasporas shape perspectives on immigration and integration within host societies? How do diasporas come to be symbolically mobilised in response to large-scale immigration? How have Scottish and Irish histories of migration come to be reinterpreted over time? How can Scotland and Ireland’s experiences of emigration shape histories of immigration?
Integration and Political Discourse: How is immigration framed within political discourse in relation to social cohesion goals? In the Scottish case there has been a particular focus on immigration as a means of arresting population decline which in the Republic of Ireland immigration has been presented with political and policy discourse as a means of sustaining social cohesion through promoting economic growth.
Stratification and Integration: Both Ireland and Scotland have migrant populations stratified into a number of categories including asylum seekers, refugees, migrants which limited residency rights, migrants who have permanent rights, migrants who have become citizens. There is considerable potential for comparative analysis of how migrants in various categories fare including opportunities for longitudinal research.
Domains of Integration: There is potential for comparative research on the experiences of migrants in different domains in which integration is seen to occur including access to the welfare state including education and training opportunities, access to labour markets and access to citizenship. Access to many such domains are seen to depend on levels of rights and entitlement associated with categories into which migrants are placed.
Knowledge and Migration Governance: What forms of expert and lay knowledge are produced and mobilised in political debate and policy-making on immigration? As countries confronting immigration as a relatively new (or newly (re)discovered) social problem, how open are Irish and Scottish public policy actors to ‘evidence-based’ approaches, and what role do different types of knowledge play in public debates on immigration?
National Identities: How has immigration impacted on Scottish and Irish national identities and nation-building narratives? If national identities reflect unfinished stories about who ‘we’ are as a collectivity – either as a multinational country, distinct nations, local communities or indeed something else, are Scottish and Irish in national identities falling back on historical characteristics that preclude migrants and their children, or looking forwards in ways that can include them. To what extent has migration shaped national identities? What does being part of the global Scottish identity or global Irish mean in the contemporary world?
Immigrant Identities: How have national identities impacted on how immigrant communities come to be constituted? For example, how and in what ways do Polish or Muslim minorities perceive themselves as holding Scottish or Irish identities? Are some minority cultural features e.g., language, better recognised than others e.g., religion?
Shifting Borders and Fluid Identities: How are national identities and narratives of belonging amongst non-immigrant populations shifting in response to changes in territorial boundaries? Are there changes in how people ‘self-define’ when the territories in which they reside become jurisdictionally redefined?
Rural integration and localisms: Both Scotland and Ireland have seen immigration to rural areas as well as to urban areas. How best can be the integration and social cohesion challenges facing such communities be conceptualised and researched? To what extent does integration occur at the level of locality rather than at a national level, and what kinds of ‘capital’ can facilitate this?