Research Proposal and Presentation

Emma Healy Presentation

Project Proposal

Emma Healy

MA DAH 2016

Are the English Language Needs of Migrants in Cork Being Met?


“For refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland, the ability to read and write in English is    the key that opens the door to integration into Irish society, and the absence of educational opportunities is the ultimate form of disempowerment.”[1]



The purpose of this proposal is to establish the need for research into the area of provision of English language training to refugees and asylum seekers as it is a timely issue that affects the future of the changing population of Ireland. This essay will discuss the recent history of migration in Ireland, the barriers to integration facing migrants, the value of English language proficiency in overcoming these barriers, as well as proposing to conduct a thorough investigation into currently available resources aimed at refugees and asylum seekers and to conduct interviews with a number of people, (refugees, asylum seekers, employers, NGOs), for the purpose of a needs analysis. Finally, this proposal will suggest the outline of a digital artefact informed by the research and shaped by the results of said needs analysis.

Recent History


In 2011, census data shows 544,357 non Irish nationals from 199 nations living in Ireland (CSO). In that year, 1290 applications for refugee status were received, with the highest percentage coming from Nigeria (ORAC). The top 5 applicant nations were Nigeria, Pakistan, China, DRC and Afghanistan. Last year in 2015, the number of applications had increased to 3276 (the highest amount received since 2008), with the highest percentage coming from Pakistan (ORAC). The top 5 applicant nations were Pakistan, Bangladesh, Albania, Nigeria and India. This shows that not only are the numbers of applicants rising again but that the demographic of those applying is also rapidly shifting. Government agencies have to try and predict these changes and channel resources effectively in an unstable domestic and international political climate.

Issues and Barriers


The problems facing migrants are manifold; racism, discrimination, marginalization and exploitation occur frequently and can manifest in a number of ways in regards to employment, housing, access to education, access to services and even physical abuse. In Cork alone, over 70 % of ethnic minorities and black Africans claim discrimination and in 2012, 55.9% of ethnic minorities reported being the victim of a racist attack (Nasc).

The root causes and possible solutions are numerous, but in a 2008 study by Nasc, migrants and employers were interviewed about potential barriers to integration and employment and many identified English language proficiency as being a necessary skill. The highest rate of unemployment in Ireland is found among those with refugee or leave to remain status.

Without a certain level of English language proficiency, migrants face barriers to employment, they are vulnerable to exploitation, they may be unaware of their rights, and the laws protecting those rights. When they are faced with an employer who is breaking the law, they may not know the proper channels to report it, or face discrimination while doing so. They may be unaware or unable to avail of social services or access education or health care. There is also the issue of isolation and non-integration into the community.

Preliminary Research


“There is very little in the way of research in regard to refugee and asylum seeker  issues in Ireland, particularly in regard to language needs”[2]


Preliminary research into the services available for those who want to learn English has proven difficult, with out-of-date links to schools and centres that no longer exist and a general lack of free or low-cost courses, especially at lower levels. Some current resources include the Welcome English Centre, a charitable organization run by the Sisters of Mercy and staffed by volunteers. It provides English language classes to all levels including offering IELTS certification, and also a social outlet for those who feel isolated. However, while they have approximately 300 students enrolled and registration is currently full for 2016-2017, there are 716 asylum seekers currently living in direct provision housing in Cork county (RIA). The number of those with refugee status in Cork was estimated at over 1400 in 2001 (Nasc) but current figures are not immediately available and are, presumably, higher. Failte Isteach is a community-based volunteer-run organisation with 83 locations nation-wide that pairs local people with students for free conversational English classes. There are none currently established in Cork city.


“I think there should be more information about English classes. There are many people who would like to learn English , but there isn’t very much information and they don’t know what there is .For example, before, I did not know where Spirasi was, even though it is only about 15 minutes away from my home. How can you find out where English classes are? There should be more information. Maybe in the Department of Justice, they should give you a list of places when you make an application. There must be more people who want to know about classes, but if they do not have any English, how can they ask?”[3]

The above quote clearly illustrates the conundrum facing those with little or no English proficiency.

In 2015 a case study was conducted 11 years after Chechen refugees had been resettled in Roscommon and who attended an initial mandatory intensive English course. Some of the recommendations based on the research are for an initial language course that is less intense and for a longer period, which allows for more immediate pressing concerns over health and housing for example. Most of the refugees did not complete the intensive course, but found it beneficial nonetheless and it was found that a lot of learning was completed outside the classroom and depended greatly on the motivation of the students. Social interaction was necessary to facilitate this.[4]

 Proposed Research Methodology


‘Integration policies across Europe often fail to acknowledge that migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are well equipped to identify their needs and provide solutions to specific issues which affect them’[5]

This research project proposes to:

  • Conduct a thorough investigation of all the facilities and resources available to refugees and asylum seekers for the purpose of English language learning.
  • Collect data from various sources such as the CSO, ORAC and Pobal to get an accurate and up-to-date picture of the number, nationalities and status of migrants, particularly refugees and asylum seekers currently living in Cork.
  • Establish relationships with NGOs such as Nasc and the Irish Refugee Council for research and collaborative purposes.
  • Conduct semi-structured interviews with a (representative) number of refugees and asylum seekers for the purpose of performing a needs analysis, possibly through a translator if necessary as well as with employers and NGOs.


Tools and Digital Artefact


The proposed research will require ethics approval, statistical data analysis and representation, the creation of a questionnaire, semi-structured interview questions and data analysis of interview transcriptions. Possible tools include SPARQL, Lumify, Google fusion tables, Carto, Neatline and Omeka or e-pubs. Ongoing research will be published in a WordPress blog. This list will be amended as the research is conducted.


The conception and conduction of the research will be documented in the thesis and will inform the creation of a digital artefact. This artefact will possibly take the form of a user-centred, intuitive, open-source website with links to available resources, including organisations, tutors, classes and other language resources and tools for e-learning. Ideally, it would be continuously updated and expanded and available in different languages for non-English speakers.



‘Adult Education; Teaching English to Asylum Seekers and Refugees’, Learner’, Halkett, G. and Mulloy, N., Aontas, ‘The Adult Learner’, 2001

‘Evaluating the Barriers to Employment and Education for Migrants in Cork’, Nasc, 2008

‘A Guide for Migrants in Cork: Employment, Enterprise and Education’, Nasc, 2008

‘Stop the Silence: A Snapshot of racism in Cork’, Nasc, 2012

Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, Annual Reports, 2008, 2011, 2015

 ‘Researching the Language Needs of Asylum Seekers, Ward, T., Aontas, ‘The Adult Learner’, 2001

Reception and Integration Agency, Annual Report, 2015

 ‘There is a Need for more English Classes and Child Care’, Berisha, A., Aontas, ‘The Adult Learner’, 2001

 ‘A Case Study of English language Acquisition by Chechen Programme Refugees in Roscommon, Ireland’, Rose L., Irish Journal of Academis Practice, 4.1, 2015

 ‘From Catastrophe to Marginalisation: The Experiences of Somali Refugees in Ireland’, Moreno E. and Lentin R., Dublin Migrant networks, Trinity Immigration Initiative, 2010

[1]{Adult Education: Teaching English to Asylum Seekers and Refugees, Halkett, G. and Mulloy, N., Aontas, 2001 }

[2] {Researching the Language Needs of Asylum Seekers, Ward, T. Aontas, 2001}

[3] {‘There is a Need for more English Classes and Child Care’, Berisha, A., Aontas 2001}

[4]{Liana Rose, ‘A Case Study of English Language Acquisition by Chechen Programme Refugees in Roscommon, Ireland’, Irish Journal of Academic Practice, 4.1 (2015), 6.}


[5] { ‘From Catastrophe to Marginalisation: The Experiences of Somali Refugees in Ireland’, Moreno E, Lentin R. Dublin: Migrant Networks Project,(Trinity Immigration Initiative, 2010), 2010  [accessed 3 December 2016].