If the Irish economy is to grow more workers from abroad are needed along with a plan for growing immigration.

More than 200,000 foreign workers will be essential to the growth of the Irish economy for the next six years according to the National Development Plan.

Things are looking up for twenty year old Roberto Gregori from Romania. A butcher by trade, he works as a boner in a meat plant outside Navan. Up to recently he had been paying ten per cent of his wages to an employment agent who had placed him in the job.

This is not a unique story. Large numbers of immigrant workers are being exploited and discriminated against in the workplace, because of

The lack of a coherent national immigration policy.

This new phenomenon of immigration is a challenge to the other psyche, as for centuries there has been a flow of people away from Ireland, not towards it.

The Celtic Tiger is the driver behind the number of work permits issued by Irish authorities to non-EU (European Union) nationals. In 1999 6,200 were made available, but the estimated number that will be required in 2001 will be close to 30,000.

In addition, the six year National Development Plan estimated that workers will be required for 270,000 jobs in Ireland's booming economy. Two hundred thousand of those, with their families will come from abroad, which means an extra three hundred and sixty thousand people in the country.

This in itself will create a whole host of social and economic issues which up to now have been evaded by those in power.

Director of Social Affairs at IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Federation) Jackie Harrison believes a more skilled approach to immigration is required where migrants are looked after. Mike Jennings of SIPTU (Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union) says that immigrants are people, not commodities,

They have needs...as to where they're going to live and their rights, how they integrate and so on.

Erkan Soykan from Turkey and Joanna Mierzyewska from Poland told RTÉ News that their employment experiences in Ireland have been positive so far, but it is a different story for employers.

Angela Carr of French and Associates says the current work permit system where employers and not employees are in possession of work permits is a cumbersome and lengthy process,

If I am interviewing somebody for example who is in fact working in Ireland already I still have to go and re-apply for that work permit.

Ireland is changing rapidly and is in the process of becoming a more diverse and multicultural society.

A national immigration policy is crucial now to guide that transformation.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 30 April 2001. The reporter is Peter Cluskey.