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By Philippe Legrain 2 COMMENTS

Once-poor countries such as Greece and Ireland were long countries of emigration. Then came the long economic boom, and they became countries of immigration – spectacularly so in Ireland’s case. But now boom has turned to bust, and people are increasingly emigrating again, as a recent BBC documentary highlighted.

As Emmet Oliver pointed out in Ireland’s Independent, emigration has long been a safety valve for Ireland’s economy.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) said [on 12 April] that 100,000 people would leave Ireland this year and next, keeping a lid on already high unemployment and helping to relieve some of the budgetary pressures on the Government.

It is desperately sad that Ireland’s economy is in such a mess. Thanks to the EU, though, Irish people who cannot find jobs at home are free to look for them elsewhere in Europe.

That is a huge benefit – and one that many British people may also come to appreciate.

Britain too has long been a country of emigration, as well as immigration: not just to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but also to Spanish beach resorts or building sites in the Gulf.

If unemployment remains high and economic prospects do not improve, many more may seek work abroad.

Posted 27 Apr 2010 in Blog, Britain, Europe, Greece, Immigration, Ireland

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