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Ireland steps up as immigration leader

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Bryan Fanning, editor of Immigration and Social Change in the Republic of Ireland, also applauds the efforts of Ireland, which allows nonnationals to vote in local elections.

"That is unusual and a very positive initiative," says Dr. Fanning. "It is unhealthy to have large proportion of your population outside citizenship. Two problems arise. First of all, they are not stakeholders in a positive way in society, and second, if they are voiceless, then they are powerless. It would be easy for pressures of marginalization to build up."

Mr. Adebari, who sought asylum after fleeing Nigeria with his wife and two children seven years ago, agrees. "Nonnational workers pay taxes, so the fact that they can have a say on how those taxes are spent locally – on roads, schools, or services – makes them feel more integrated with their community."

But many immigrants don't feel welcome, let alone integrated. A 2006 report from the Irish-based Economic and Social Research Institute found that 35 percent of immigrants were insulted, threatened, or harassed in public because of their ethnic or national origin, a figure that climbed to 53 percent for black Africans. It found, however, that the incidence of racism in Ireland was lower than other European countries.

In recent general elections, there were three candidates representing the Immigration Control Platform, but they received just 1,329 votes. There are no far-right political parties in Ireland, like the British National Party or Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front in France. Attempts to politicize the issue have been largely unsupported.

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