More recently, Ireland instituted stricter policies that favor highly skilled immigrants from outside the European Union.Now, in the context of an economic recession, Ireland is facing a new set of policy issues with reduced but still high immigration rates and a substantial population of legal foreign residents.

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Ireland's economic boom during the 1990s brought unprecedented levels of prosperity and helped transform it into a "country of net immigration" by the early 2000s.

For the first time in its history, Ireland experienced a significant inflow of migrants — both workers and asylum seekers — from outside the European Union.

Consequently, Ireland had to develop policies in a very short period of time. First, to slow a rising number of asylum applications, the government created a list of safe countries of origin and began prioritizing applications accordingly.

Second, over the period 2003 to 2005, Ireland's citizenship laws were fundamentally changed to eliminate an Irish-born child's automatic right to citizenship when the parents are not Irish nationals.

Third, with regard to labor immigration, Ireland moved away from its more liberal work permit system as it sought to meet most of its low-skilled labor needs from within the enlarged European Union.

The key decision: Ireland, along with the United Kingdom and Sweden, agreed to allow citizens from the 10 countries that joined the European Union in May 2004 to work in the country immediately.

This contributed to an acceleration in EU immigration flows, a large proportion of which came from Poland.

Many nationals from new EU Member States have filled lower-skilled jobs than appropriate for their level of education.

Unlike the other 25 EU Member States, Ireland and the United Kingdom are not "Schengen states" and have chosen instead to maintain border controls with the rest of the European Union.

Ireland's long history as a country of significant emigration is well known and documented.

Between 18, the average annual net emigration from Ireland consistently exceeded the natural increase in the Irish population, which shrank from about 4.4 million in 1861 to 2.8 million in 1961.