THE IMMIGRANT COUNCIL of Ireland (ICI) has welcomed an announcement by the government that Bulgarian and Romanian citizens will be free to work in Ireland immediately.
This move comes 17 months ahead of schedule as it was agreed there would be a seven year transition period under the countries’ terms of accession into the EU before citizens could get full access to member states’ labour markets.
Brian Killoran, spokesperson for the ICI said the restrictions placed upon Romanian and Bulgarian nationals since their accession to the EU in 2007 have been a source of huge confusion and lack of clarity as regards their rights and entitlements.
“For the past five years questions concerning this area of immigration policy have consistently been one of the most frequent queries received by the ICI’s Information and Referral Service helplines from both individuals and organisations,” he said.
“This announcement by the Government will go a long way towards clarifying the rights of this group of people.”
The lifting of work restrictions comes after a review by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation found that while work permit applications from the two countries peaked at 3,600 in 2003, they fell to just over 500 applications in total last year.
The review also found that the population of Romanians and Bulgarians living in Ireland fell by around 3,000 between 2008 and 2011.
Killoran said the shift in economic fortunes in the EU since the two countries were admitted has led to fewer Bulgarians and Romanians seeking work in Ireland.
“With decreasing work permit applications being submitted from these citizens, it is clear they understand the reality of Ireland’s employment crisis, and have acted accordingly, thereby reducing the need for any work restrictions to be in place,” he said.
Only nine of the 27 other EU member states currently retain restrictions of any sort on access to their labour markets by Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.