You know, one of the most obvious facts about human nature which is often ignored is that people respond to incentives.
If you reward certain behaviour, and punish the opposite, most people will simply take whatever course of action is easiest, and not think too deeply about it. With a few principled exceptions, when it comes to big decisions, most of humanity simply follows the path of least resistance in an almost Pavlovian fashion.
And politicians are no different. Which is why, when you kick up a massive fuss about a particular grievance you have in society, you’ll often find that things have a funny way of starting to work themselves out.
As reported by RTÉ this week, it turns out that the number of migrants arriving with no documents has declined massively since December, because of Gardaí checking people’s documents at foreign airports before they arrive:
“The number of people arriving at Dublin Airport without valid documentation has fallen by more than 50% since December 2022, the Minister for Justice has said.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Drivetime, Simon Harris said the figure fell from 451 in December to 325 in January and to 223 in February.
He attributed the decrease to the placement of gardaí “at airports in key locations across the world”.”
Now, what’s fascinating about this is that migrants showing up with no documents has been a problem in Ireland, not just for years, but for decades.
This fact was outlined previously by barrister Seán Deegan, who served on the Refugee Appeals Tribunal from 2006 to 2010. Deegan said that “the majority” of cases he oversaw “didn’t have any paperwork at all”, and also told Gript that this situation was going on for years even before his era.
“There was one particular fella that was in here from Chile…he was afraid to go back because of earthquakes”: BEN SCALLAN goes over an old 2015 RTÉ interview, to highlight how long Ireland has been a soft touch on immigration.#gripthttps://t.co/TFl0jbaYso
— gript (@griptmedia) February 7, 2023
And yet, after decades of asylum anarchy, the government suddenly implemented a common sense policy – namely, placing Gardaí at foreign airports to check people’s papers – and the problem literally halved overnight, like a Houdini magic trick.
To understand the sudden change here, one doesn’t have to look far. The policy in question was implemented in January, which just so happens to be after several months of protests in areas like East Wall.
For just a few months, crowds of unhappy, mostly-working class locals took to the streets in a sustained pressure campaign, demanding that the government get a handle on Ireland’s free-for-all migration system. And within a very short period of time, a policy was introduced which we now see put a massive dent in the problem.
Of course, most immigration sceptics wouldn’t say that Ireland’s system is now perfect – far from it. But it’s undeniably a huge step towards what the protesters are asking for.
In other words, the politicians responded to incentives. The constant demonstrating made it uncomfortable to be a Minister who was overseeing asylum chaos – they were inundated with angry emails about it, and they saw from polling that most of the country was backing the protester’s cause. It was a source of grief to have to get chewed out by constituents on a regular basis.
And therefore steps were taken to change national policy, leading to meaningful change.
Furthermore, it seems that by making it harder to illegally immigrate to Ireland, people around the world respond to incentives as well and stop coming. It turns out that the sky really is the limit when you’re armed with a basic understanding of human nature and the will to act.
The main takeaway here is that protesting works, no matter who you are, and that anybody can influence the direction of policy in this country.