Launch of Westmeath Integration and Diversity Strategy 2013-2017
Joe Potter, CEO Westmeath Community Development, Una Conlan CEO Irish Refugee Council, Cllr Peter Burke Cathaoirleach Westmeath County Council and Rashid Butt, Chairperson Westmeath Immigrants Network
Asylum seekers living in Co Westmeath are housed in overcrowded accommodation for years on end without the right to work, according to Sue Conlon CEO of the Irish Refugee Council. “They survive on a tiny allowance” she said while speaking at the launch of the Westmeath Integration and Diversity Strategy 2013-2017 at Bloomfield House Hotel last week. She praised the initiative of Westmeath Community Development in taking action to produce and implement a strategy aimed at strengthening inter-cultural interaction, integration and training and employment opportunities. While critical of the Governments approach to asylum seekers, she said that the strategy is “a very good document”.
The Strategy was launched by the Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, Councillor Peter Burke. It was drawn up as part of the European Refugee Fund project by Westmeath Community Development with the input of Integration Centre, Westmeath County Council and other agencies and organisations including voluntary groups and has been endorsed by the Westmeath County Development Board. The strategy document features actions centred on the five themes of: Access to Jobs and business opportunities, Access and managing diversity in Education and Training, Active Community Participation, Access to public services, Racism and Discrimination.
Jipe Kelly, of the Integration Centre described the consultation process with immigrants and various agencies which led to the production of the strategy. “The issues faced by immigrants are not unique to Westmeath but are commonplace around the country”, he said.
Rashid Butt, Chairperson of Westmeath Immigrants Network said immigrants “are not guest workers who have come here for a short-term stay. Most of them are now naturalised Irish citizens and Westmeath or Ireland is the only place they can call home”. Mr Butt also emphasised the importance of implementing the actions outlined in this strategy.
Launching the Strategy, Councillor Burke welcomed the production of the document and remarked that it showed the importance of joined up thinking in policy approaches to integration. He also highlighted the progress that has been made in the areas of integration of immigrants and ethnic minorities, which he saw in the number of foreign candidates in the last local elections, business start-ups in Westmeath by immigrants and the increase in numbers of immigrants obtaining Irish citizenship.
The vital role of Westmeath County Council in light of the forthcoming re-allignment of local authorities and local development was emphasised by Joe Potter, CEO of Westmeath Community Development. He also praised the commitment of all those involved in moving this project forward as an important step in integrating immigrants into local communities, engendering a sense of belonging in everybody, engaging with people and valuing their contribution to society.
Click on the link below to download a copy of the Westmeath Integration and Diversity 2013 - 2017