Latvian population in Ireland may now top 37,000

Ireland now may be home to at least 37,000 former residents of Latvia, according to data compiled by the Irish Department of Social and Family Affairs.

The figure is based on records of Personal Public Service Numbers issued by the Irish government. From the middle of 2000 through the end of 2007, a total of 35,059 numbers have been issued to persons from Latvia. Through the first seven months of 2008, an additional 2,192 numbers have been issued.

The statistics lend credence to estimates of the Latvian population in Ireland, which often range from about 20,000 to 60,000 or more. A 2006 study by the Rīga-based research firm SKDS estimated 30,000 Latvians lived in Ireland. Most of the immigrants arrived after Latvia joined the European Union in May 2004, when travel to countries such as Ireland became easier.

“We cannot be certain that all those people are now working in Ireland but it would be the intention of the majority of those applying for PPSNs to work,” Oonagh Duffy, deputy press officer in the Department of Social and Family Affairs, told Latvians Online in an e-mail. “The statistics could therefore be indicative of the numbers of people from accession countries who may have come here to work since May 1st, 2004.”

The number of new PPSNs issued to persons from Latvia shot to 6,266 in 2004, up 409 percent from the previous year. From the middle of 2000, when statistics first are available, through the end of 2003 the total number of permits issued to Latvians was 6,837.

The figured jumped again in 2005, when 9,328 PPSNs were issued to Latvians. Since then fewer PPSNs have been issued. In 2006 a total of 7,954 PPSNs went to persons from Latvia, but in 2007 the total was 4,674.

PPSNs were introduced in Ireland in 1998. They are used in transactions between individuals and government agencies such as social welfare services, tax payments, driver licenses and child immunization. Both adults and children may obtain the numbers.

The statistics do not indicate whether people holding PPSNs are still in Ireland. Individuals do not relinquish the numbers when they leave Ireland.

From the middle of 2000 through the end of last year, a total of 7,933 PPSNs have been issued to persons from Estonia and 66,839 to persons from Lithuania.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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