ICPO Launches ‘Good to Know Before You Go’ Campaign

12 September 2014

Today the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas launched a social media awareness campaign entitled: ‘Good to Know Before You Go’.  The campaign, which involves a brief video and humorous messages and images on social media, seeks to encourage young Irish emigrants to take care of themselves and each other, while respecting laws and customs when travelling, living and working abroad.

This ICPO campaign is in response to the current wave of emigration and an increase in the number of Irish people breaking the law and becoming prisoners in certain jurisdictions.  It will emphasise the importance of being aware of cultural differences and of adhering to local laws and customs, while also raising awareness of emigrant services so that those who get into difficulty can access available pastoral and other supports.

Launching the campaign in the departures area of Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport, Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert and chair of the Irish Bishop’s Council for Emigrants, said, “The Catholic Church is committed to supporting the pastoral needs of our people abroad.  Since the 1950’s Irish chaplaincies, and since 1985 the ICPO, have reached out to our emigrants in need of help, and who find themselves voiceless: often vulnerable, isolated and alone.

“Today, along with the ICPO, I wish to recognise and salute the Trojan work the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, the Irish Apostolate USA, and the Irish Chaplaincy in Sydney.  Our staff and volunteers work tirelessly to meet the needs of Irish emigrants of all generations, and in doing so fulfil an essential mission of the gospels: to love God and to love your neighbour,” Bishop Kirby said.

Bishop Kirby thanked Mr Alan Brogan (32) for attending the launch in order to give a personal account of his own recent emigrant experience. Bishop Kirby also thanked the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade for funding this campaign under its Emigrant Support Programme.  He acknowledged with gratitude the work of the Consular Assistance Unit of the Department, and its Irish embassies and consulates, for the excellent support provided to Irish prisoners overseas and to the ICPO.

Speaking at the launch Joanna Joyce, Coordinator of the ICPO Maynooth office, said, “Traditionally the majority of Irish prisoners overseas have been detained in the UK, but it is likely that the recent wave of emigration will result in an increase in the number of Irish prisoners in other parts of the world.  In the last two years, for example, the ICPO has seen an increase in the number of young emigrants committing an offence and spending a period of time in prison in Australia.”

“In our experience alcohol is a feature in many offences committed by younger emigrants in Irish communities overseas.  As well as the serious sanctions applied by authorities abroad to those who transgress the law in the area of drugs and alcohol, their use often causes serious mental health problems amongst our emigrants.  We encourage emigrants to reach out to their local chaplaincy for pastoral support, or if in difficulty to connect with their Irish immigration centre for advice and support.

“Finally, I urge everyone to view the brief ‘Good to know before you go’ video on our new website icpo.ie, our Facebook message campaign on Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, and on Twitter @ICPOprisoners,” Joanna Joyce said.

Please see the full texts of Bishop John Kirby and of Ms Joanna Joyce.

ENDS

Comments by Bishop Kirby at the ICPO ‘Good to Know Before You Go’ campaign

As Chairman of the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants I am delighted to be here to launch the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas’ social media awareness campaign.  We have specifically chosen Dublin airport as the venue for our ‘Good to Know Before You Go’ campaign as this is the port of departure for so many of our young people today.

The ICPO was established by the Bishops’ Conference in 1985, in response to serious concerns regarding the number of Irish men and women in UK prisons.  Today the organisation supports over one thousand Irish prisoners around the world.

Conditions and support for prisoners overseas

Irish prisoners overseas are one of the most marginalised groups of Irish emigrants and they face many significant difficulties, including discrimination, language barriers, and dealing with an unfamiliar legal system.  In some countries prison conditions are a major cause of concern and prisoners experience extreme hardship, with limited access to food, water and medical treatment.

Most but not all prisoners overseas are ICPO clients.  Our clients require support in relation to a range of issues, including repatriation, deportation, discrimination, and access to post release support and accommodation.  In addition to providing advice on these issues, the ICPO administers a hardship fund which provides direct, effective and meaningful support.

Families of prisoners

The ICPO also provides vital support to the families of prisoners overseas. It can be a very frightening and traumatic experience having a loved one imprisoned in a foreign country.  Many families find it helpful to discuss their worries and fears with someone outside of the situation, so one of the most important roles of the ICPO is to listen to families and provide reassurance.

ICPO London

I had an opportunity to witness first-hand the essential outreach of the ICPO when I visited Wormwood Scrubs prison in London last year with Father Gerry McFlynn, manager of the ICPO London office.  As we walked through the landings, meeting and speaking with Irish prisoners, I heard some very sad and troubling stories.  It was clear to me that the support provided by the ICPO is crucial, both during a period of imprisonment and at the time of a prisoner’s release.  After its nearly thirty years of existence, I can only describe the pastoral and humanitarian service offered by the ICPO as exemplary.

In addition to the ICPO, there are many other pastoral groups caring for vulnerable Irish emigrants overseas.  Today, along with the ICPO, I wish to recognise and salute the Trojan work the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, the Irish Apostolate USA, and the Irish Chaplaincy in Sydney.  Our staff and volunteers work tirelessly to meet the needs of Irish emigrants of all generations, and in doing so fulfil an essential mission of the gospels: to love God and to love your neighbour.

I also wish to thank the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for generously funding this campaign under its Emigrant Support Programme.  I commend the work of the department’s Consular Assistance Unit, as well as Irish embassies and consulates, for the excellent support they all provide to Irish prisoners overseas and to the ICPO.

‘Good to Know Before You Go’ campaign

The ICPO has chosen to launch our ‘Good to know before you go’ social media awareness campaign in response to the current wave of emigration, which continues to have a dramatic effect on our society as thousands of young Irish people leave our shores in search of new opportunities.  While for most emigration will be a positive experience, others may find themselves in difficulty in a country where they are not familiar with local law, practices and customs.

Drug and alcohol abuse are also serious issues that affect Irish communities overseas and this contributes to the risk of emigrants committing an offence and spending a period of time in a foreign prison.  The ICPO information campaign highlights these issues and encourages young emigrants to exercise caution and to look out for each other while travelling, living and working abroad.

The Catholic Church is committed to supporting the pastoral needs of our people abroad.  Since the 1950’s Irish chaplaincies, and since 1985 the ICPO, have reached out to our emigrants in need of help, and who find themselves voiceless: often vulnerable, isolated and alone.

I wish to specifically thank Alan Brogan for attending our launch today, and for sharing his personal experience of the challenges facing the young Irish emigrant today.

I now hand over to Joanna Joyce, Coordinator of the ICPO in Maynooth, to explain the elements of this ‘Good to Know Before You Go’ campaign.

ENDS

Comments of Joanna Joyce at the ‘Good to Know Before You Go’ campaign

Thank you Bishop Kirby.  The ICPO is currently providing support to 1,256 prisoners overseas.  As has always been the case, the vast majority of Irish prisoners overseas are detained in the UK; however, it is likely that the recent wave of emigration will result in an increase in the number of Irish prisoners in other parts of the world.

In the last two years the ICPO has seen an increase in the number of young emigrants spending a period of time in prison in Australia.  Despite this we believe our figures may underrepresent the number of Irish people detained there and in other jurisdictions that have become popular with Irish emigrants, including Canada, the UAE and New Zealand.

Today, in response to the current wave of emigration, the ICPO is launching our ‘Good to know before you go’ social media awareness campaign in order to inform young Irish emigrants of our services and to emphasise the importance of being aware of cultural differences, and of adhering to local laws and customs.

As referred to by Bishop Kirby, in our experience alcohol is a feature in many offences committed by younger emigrants in Irish communities overseas.  As well as the serious sanctions applied by authorities abroad to those who transgress the law in the area of drugs and alcohol, it is important that our emigrants take care of their mental health as this often suffers due use of drugs and alcohol.

We are calling on all Irish emigrants, both men and women, to take care of themselves and each other overseas. We have produced a campaign video and posters to raise awareness of the need for emigrants to familiarise themselves with local laws and customs. These materials are available on the new ICPO website and will be made available to Citizens Information Centres and third level colleges.

As a council of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference we are very grateful to the bishops for their ongoing support.  We are also grateful to our funders: the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Saint Stephen’s Green Trust.

Finally, I urge everyone to check out our website, Twitter and Facebook message campaign.  I now wish to show you our online video which is specifically targeted at young Irish emigrants.  I will then invite Alan Brogan to recount briefly his experience of emigration.

ENDS

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678

 

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