IRELAND’s PAINFUL emigration experience may crowd out the discussion on the less traveled route.
But it would be hard not to notice the increase in the migrant population: 13% of the population is now made up of foreign nationals, compared to 9% in the UK.
A particularly visible group – at least in the streets of Dublin – are the Brazilians. This is not, at first glance, a natural adjustment: a time outside the EU, Portuguese-speaking, totally incompatible.
So what has Ireland attracted a large Brazilian population?
Are there really that many Brazilians here?
The 2016 census recorded 13,600 Brazilians living in Ireland, triple the number a decade earlier.
This may not seem like much for a total population of 4.8 million inhabitants: only 0.3%. But the Brazilian was the only non-EU nationality in the top 10 for foreign residents, ranking sixth between Latvian and Spaniard. There were more Brazilians than Americans (10,500) or Indians (11,500); they represented one in ten Irish residents outside the EU.
They are also very concentrated in certain areas, which makes them much more visible. About two-thirds of Brazilians lived in Dublin at the time of the census, making it the most geographically concentrated of all major nationalities.
Many of the rest lived in certain towns: Roscommon, Naas and Gort, Co Galway.
Either way, today’s population is probably much larger than the census population. Last year, more than 5,800 PPS numbers were assigned to Brazilians. This is one in 12 issued to a foreign national. Take out the countries that have free movement with Ireland – those in the European Economic Area, plus Switzerland and the UK – and the figure is one in five.
In 2019, there were over 27,000 valid residence permits for Brazilian citizens in Ireland (the sixth highest in the EU).
The pandemic has naturally affected this, with the number of Brazilian residence permit holders falling to 22,500 in 2020, according to the Central Statistics Office. But that’s just a throwback to the 2018 numbers, so overall it’s pretty much guaranteed that next year’s census will show a very large increase in the Brazilian population.
“Basically there were three waves of Brazilians who entered Ireland,” said Paulo Azevedo from the Brazilian embassy in Dublin. âMeat factory workers in the 1990s until today; English language students from the 2000s to today; and, in recent years, workers and engineers for the computer and civil construction industries.
One of the first factories to recruit Brazilians was the Duffy Meat Factory in County Galway, which first brought workers from GoiÃ¡s to Gort in 1999. In 2006, around 40% of the population of the city was not Irish.
âA large community of Brazilians now lives, works and attends school in Gort, gradually changing the appearance and character of the city,â wrote that year Claire Healy, a migration researcher.
The local football team naturally benefited from Brazilian talent and experience, while the main thoroughfare is now home to two Brazilian stores, ‘Sabor Brasil’ on Georges Street and ‘Real Brazil’ on Crowe Street.
Most never intended to stay forever, and did not. The closure of the Duffy factory in 2007 was quickly followed by the financial crisis and the drying up of work in general; many Brazilians have left. But others had taken root and wanted to stay.
âCertainly at the beginning, when times were good before the economic crash, people came, they saved, they built a house in Brazil, they had enough to start a business in Brazil. It was a bit like that, ârecalls Annie Rozario of the Gort Resource Center.
“On the other hand, relationships are developing, the kids are starting school, you would have kids here who may not be as fluent in Portuguese and they’re Irish kids, they feel Irish.”
For those who started families and ended up staying, a major concern today is immigration documentation.
âWork permits were tied to employment. If you lost your job, you lost your work permit, you lost your right to be here and you became undocumented, âsays Rozario. “People slip through the cracks through no fault of their own, really.”
The resource center launched the Gort Justice for the Undocumented Group five years ago to push for an amnesty – a campaign that is now on the verge of bearing fruit through a draft regularization plan.
The English language study path
Although Gort is the flagship city of Brazilian immigration, it is not representative either. Many more residence permits are issued for study than for work, with the typical Brazilian getting a first glimpse of Irish life during an English course. While other English speaking countries are available, Ireland’s visa system is more welcoming than most.
“Brazilians are not required to have visas in Ireland,” said Karen Berkeley, immigration lawyer at Berkeley Solicitors. “This means they can travel to Ireland to apply for permission to enter the state at the point of arrival, without first going through a lengthy visa application process at a local embassy.” This is a point of contrast with the United States, for example, which requires Brazilians to obtain visas in advance.
Once here, English students can upgrade to a residence permit for â¬ 300 and legally work 20 hours per week (40 during holidays). The UK Short Term Study Visa designed for English language students does not allow work.
âBrazilians usually easily find part-time work, and many work as childminders,â says Berkeley. âSo they can study and improve their English, while working and earning money, for a relatively low initial investment.
Carolina Pessoa took this route when she first arrived in Ireland in 2012.
“I think Ireland has a very open approach for non-Europeans who also want to come to study and work,” she said. The newspaper.
Obviously, to study abroad you have to save a huge amount of money to spend on school and accommodation etc. Ireland also gives us the opportunity to work so that you can somehow compensate for what you spend â.
Originally from Rio, Pessoa had no previous connection to Ireland but was convinced to come for a visit from a friend.
“She was always talking about Irish actors and bands and that was brand new to me,” Pessoa recalls. âShe arrived in October 2011, and I had planned to come in January 2012. And then, during those three months, she told me all the wonders of Ireland, and it made me want to come and spend 12 months instead of a short trip. So I changed my plan.
And then, of course, the old Irish charm kicked in. As Berkeley says, “there is mutual compatibility between Irish and Brazilians, and communities tend to get along well.”
âThe reason I fell in love with Ireland was the people – obviously not the weather,â Pessoa jokes. âOnce I was here I knew I wasn’t going to go back. I didn’t want to say it for sure, but I just felt it in my heart. During the first two months, I knew.
“They travel with hope, and that’s it”
Migration is not limited to what the boffins call âpull factorsâ: the attractions of the country you are emigrating to. As the Irish know all too well, the âpush factorsâ – a dark life at home – are also important.
Rozario says recent years have seen an unrecognized fourth wave of Brazilian immigration: those driven by economic and political conditions, following the paths taken by friends and family in the 1990s and early 2000s.
âYoung people feel that there is no hope there. Older people feel that there is no future for younger people.
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Youth employment is well below the average for rich countries, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and income inequality is extremely high. President Bolsonaro, dubbed the Trump of the tropics, has been criticized for refusing to bring the pandemic under control and recently suggested he would not accept next year’s election result if he loses.
âPeople are always coming,â Rozario says. âThey travel with hope, and that’s about it. You get low income groups, who borrow money to come. Maybe they don’t have great English skills, but they’re just hoping for a better life.
Pessoa herself had a degree and taught English in her country, but spent her early years in Ireland doing less skilled jobs.
âI worked in cafes, pubs, as a guard too. So I spent two years doing this and once I decided I wanted to stay I thought, well I should go back to teaching, so I taught in a Montessori school for four years. . Today, she is a data analyst for a large supermarket chain.
It’s not all sweetness and samba. Brazilians working as Deliveroo drivers in Dublin have complained of violence in the streets and many newcomers find themselves in cramped housing.
“I ended up living in a house in Dublin 8 with 14 other people,” Ana Marta GonÃ§alves wrote on The newspaper in 2019. “For four long months, I shared a room with three other girls, sleeping on the bottom bunk – and it was like forever.” The 2016 census, of course, found that a third of Brazilian households lived in shared apartments.
Although Pessoa has not experienced much racism in her personal life, she has experienced discrimination in the labor market. âSome companies underpay you. I’m a woman too, but you can tell when it’s sexism and when it’s because you’re a stranger, âshe says.
But above all, like so many members of the Brazilian community in Ireland, it was a happy time.
Irish citizenship awaits her, and she doesn’t see herself moving anytime soon. “Not at the moment,” Pessoa said, his accent now tinged with Irish inflections. “I like this country.”
This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant program from the European Parliament. All opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are those of the author. The European Parliament has no involvement or responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.