In an increasingly interconnected world, Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project remains steadfast in our mission to assist and empower Irish citizens everywhere. Crucial to this work is our close partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs Consular Directorate and Irish diplomatic missions around the world, particularly in crisis cases (you can learn more in our Consular Area). It was in this capacity that Project Leader Sarah Owen was attended the Consular Forum 2023, held on Wednesday, 15 November in Dublin. The event, a convergence of consular representatives and professionals across the sector devoted to the wellbeing of citizens in crisis, featured a diverse programme that covered crucial aspects of international travel, safety, and citizen supports.
The 2023 forum kicked off with a compelling keynote address from the DFA Director General of the Citizen Services Division, Fiona Penollar. Ms. Penollar’s insights provided a valuable backdrop into the discussions that followed, delving into the ever evolving landscape of citizen services and emphasising the importance of collaborative efforts in supporting Irish citizens abroad. She highlighted a 20% increase in consular cases in the last year, especially in non-traditional destinations, citing crises in Ukraine, Sudan, and Gaza as necessitating major consular responses (we continue to provide crisis interventions to Irish citizens returning as a result of these conflicts). Ms. Penollar also lauded the DFA’s introduction of an updated Consular Strategy and Consular Assistance Charter, as well as the announcement of new Irish diplomatic missions, which will facilitate provision of vital services to Irish citizens in a greater number of countries.
Latest Trends in Irish International Travel
One of the highlights of the Consular Forum was a panel discussion on the latest trends in international travel, chaired by DFA Consular Director Martin Gallagher. Featuring expert insights from leading travel commentator Eoghan Corry, the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the panel stressed the need to collaborate across the sector to prepare and educate travelers on their rights.
With a strong tradition of migration and appetite for travel, no other country travels as much as Ireland. As Irish international travel returns or exceeds pre-pandemic levels, travel advice is more important than ever. Across the board, experts encouraged people travelling to know their rights before they encounter difficulty and to take measures to minimize travel crises before they arise – such as taking out comprehensive travel insurance. Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project is actively involved in promoting this proactive #KnowBeforeYouGo mindset for emigrants, providing pre-departure information to Irish citizens moving abroad in collaboration with our Global Irish partners.
Staying Safe Overseas
Central to the Forum was the second panel discussion on ensuring the safety of Irish citizens overseas. Moderated by Consular Director Fionnuala Quinlan, Prof Helen Heneghan (Consultant Bariatric Surgeon and UCD Professor of Surgery, St Vincent’s University Hospital), the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, and An Garda Siochana exchanged best practices for staying safe abroad. Tips from the panel included:
- Have someone who knows where you are at all times, even if travelling with a group
- Exercise digital hygiene whilst travelling (e.g. use a VPN on public wifi networks)
- Be aware of medical tourism and risks, including varying standards medical abroad and the importance of informed consent and aftercare following major surgery
During this panel, Project Leader Sarah Owen highlighted our support services for Irish citizens moving abroad, adding that having digital copies of important documents and registering with the DFA’s Citizens Registration Platform are important safety steps. For more safety tips for emigrants, visit our Leaving Ireland hub.
Connecting with Key Partners
Consular Forum 2023 also provided an opportunity for us to connect with our partner organisations dedicated to supporting global Irish, including representatives from the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO), Safe Home Ireland, and the DFA Consular Directorate. We are beyond grateful to be to count on such dedicated in colleagues in our shared mission to support Irish citizens abroad, particularly those in need. You can learn more on how our partnerships enhance our work here.
Our sincere thanks to the DFA for inviting us to participate in the Consular Forum 2023. The exchange of knowledge and collaborative opportunities this Forum facilitated positions us to further serve the evolving needs of the Irish diaspora.