Human Rights-Based Migrant Integration Policy: Lessons from Ireland, Part II – Applying the Human Rights-Based Model

by | Nov 28, 2017

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About Clíodhna Murphy and Mary Gilmartin

Dr Clíodhna Murphy is a lecturer in law at Maynooth University.

The first part of this post emphasised the importance of supporting public sector bodies in developing human rights-based migrant integration policies. We also outlined how our project (funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission) has devised a model of best practice for integration policy based on international human rights law standards, against which we can assess public sector policy-making in this area.

In this second post, we explain some key findings of our audit and human rights and equality review of public sector integration policies as well as some recommendations.

Audit and review of public sector integration policies in Ireland

Having developed a model of best practice for integration policy, based on human rights and equality principles, we conducted an audit and review of the integration policies of public bodies in Ireland. This involved writing to 432 public bodies requesting a copy of their integration and/or diversity policy or strategy documents. We then reviewed the integration policies provided using a series of “human rights indicators” based on our model. Finally, we carried out interviews with a small sample of public bodies whose integration policies provided examples of good practice.

Low number of relevant policies provided

Our audit and evaluation of the integration policies of public bodies in Ireland demonstrate that integration policies and measures are not yet being mainstreamed in the work of all public bodies.  Almost 50% of the bodies which responded stated that they had no relevant policies. Relevant documents were received from only 18% of the total bodies surveyed. The reason most often provided by public bodies for not having policies in place was that it was not within the function of the organisation to play any role in migrant integration.

Under-developed integration policy across the public sector

There were some positive findings from our evaluation exercise. These include the lack of negative references to integration and human rights, and the existence of examples of good policy and practice in some public bodies. However, integration policy is generally under-developed in the public sector in Ireland.  A striking outcome is that only 5% of the public bodies we contacted provided us with a policy or other document that explicitly mentioned migrant integration. We conclude that public bodies need to be more explicit in how they address the question of migrant integration.

Not an explicitly human rights-based approach

The idea of “human rights” is rarely referred to in the policies examined (less than 10% of these policies). Specific human rights are almost never identified. We suggest that there is a need for greater understanding of the positive duty to promote and protect human rights rather than just to prevent breaches of human rights, particularly with reference to integration.

Policy implementation measures

The research also points to some gaps in the practical implementation of existing policies. For example, many of the policies evaluated (63%) contain commitments to respect and promote equality and diversity. However, only about half of these broad commitments (53%) are matched by specifically identifying practical measures designed to achieve this. Staff training is the practical measure predominantly referred to in the policy documents. Other measures include equality-proofing policies; the production of pamphlets regarding the use of non-discriminatory language; and measures aimed at facilitating social inclusion generally.

Less than 50% of the policies studied identify a position or department of responsibility for ensuring the implementation of the policy. It also appears that the formal evaluation of the success of integration policies is rare.


Our research shows that many public bodies are active and engaged with the ideas of “equality” and “diversity”. A human rights-based approach requires public bodies to go a step further and develop specific integration policies to specifically address the needs of migrant populations. This entails identifying and assessing specific barriers to the full realisation of migrants’ human rights relevant to the organization in question and addressing those barriers through specific policy measures. To this end, integration objectives should be set out in the strategic plans, or other core documents, of public sector bodies. In addition, mechanisms for policy review or evaluation should be a key factor in integration policy development.

In terms of practical support for such policy development, we suggest that national policy-making bodies take a strong leadership role. The research showed a clear need for the provision of training programmes, as well as resources and guidance, on how to incorporate human rights in integration policies; the relevance of the public sector human rights and equality duty to integration; and actions required under the national Migrant Integration Strategy. The establishment of a public sector integration forum would support public bodies to discuss, review and share knowledge on integration policy development, implementation and review.

We hope that these recommendations, along with the other recommendations and practical guidelines for public bodies set out in our report, might assist public sector bodies, in Ireland as well as further afield, in coming closer to best practice on migrant integration as developed in the work of the UN human rights treaty monitoring bodies.


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