ALMOST 10% of the population of Laois (8,000 people) are from 100 different national backgrounds. It is also estimated that at least 57 languages are spoken and more than 20 religions are practised in Laois.
The statistics were released at the launch of the first Laois Integration Strategy.
Funding for the production of the strategy came from the Department of Justice and Equality under the Asylum Migration and Integration Funds (AMIF) and was overseen by a steering committee that included Laois Partnership and AMIF personnel.
Other bodies involved in drawing up the strategy were Laois County Council, St Stephen’s Green Trust, Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland, Doras Luimí and Laois Offaly Education and Training Board as well as representatives from Laois Integration Network, Laois Sports Partnership, Youth Work Ireland Laois, residents from the Montague Hotel direct provision centre and the HSE.
The strategy found that the diverse population has contributed positively to the economic, social and cultural life of Laois, which has helped to create and strengthen a vibrant, inclusive and creative community.
However, other statistics revealed that some of the problems faced by migrants include a language barrier for new and long-term residents as well as staff of service providers, finding employment and gaining local work experience as well as accessing information and services, particularly for new residents.
Migrants cited the welcoming and friendly attitudes of Laois communities along with the support of a wide range of individuals, service providers, community groups and networks.