Ireland Inc is now actively targeting business, investment and recruitment from the Middle East as a result of the US travel ban on Muslims.
US President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration policy is sparking a rethink across the Muslim world.
Middle Eastern businesses and wealthy families have traditionally targeted the US for investment and education.
But the ban and associated anti-Muslim sentiment is forcing them to look elsewhere in the West.
Tech companies are already actively looking to recruit highly skilled professionals from Muslim backgrounds.
The State’s key investment agency also says Irish business and education institutions can take advantage of the turmoil.
Irish-American tech company Intercom has already intervened in the current US immigration controversy by offering to pay the legal fees of Muslim tech workers thinking of moving to Dublin.
In a move that will enhance Dublin’s reputation as a global tech skills capital, the software firm is offering to pay legal fees of up to €250,000 for “at least” 50 Muslim tech workers if they consider Dublin as their next career destination.
And Enterprise Ireland’s (EI) senior official in the Middle East says European companies could follow suit and may soon be vying for business in the region. EI’s Middle East and North Africa regional manager Joe Breslin also pinpointed education as a sector in which Ireland could benefit.
Mr Breslin said Irish companies in areas such as healthcare and FinTech (financial technology) all have US competitors in the Middle East.
“If your product is able to compete… and you come down to the last three or four and decisions are being made, the fact that it’s a US company versus a European company, I think the European companies have on balance a greater potential to win that business now,” he said.
Mr Breslin, who is based in the United Arab Emirates, said students from countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates come to Ireland to study medicine and engineering, although the US is by far the largest destination from the region.
“A lot of people in this region are now seriously worried about their children going to the US to study because all of the media here in the Middle East is negative against the United States in terms of the reaction there is to Muslims in particular,” he said.
“This is an area that we would see as a potential because those people are now going to be looking at alternatives in terms of where their children go internationally for third-level education, and that’s an area of opportunity.”
Junior Enterprise Minister Pat Breen is this week leading an Enterprise Ireland trade delegation to a healthcare exhibition and conference in Dubai.
The visit is focussing on boosting business opportunities for 20 Irish companies attending the conference.
Meanwhile, Intercom’s move was announced by its chief executive Eoghan McCabe. “If you’re in tech and you’re from one of the newly unfavoured countries, or even if you’re not, but you’re feeling persecuted for being Muslim, we’d like to help you consider Dublin as a place to live and work,” the firm’s co-founder said.
“If you decide you want to look into moving seriously, we’ll retain our Dublin immigration attorneys for you and pay your legal bills with them, up to €5,000. We’ll do this for as many as we can afford. We should be able to do this for at least 50 people.”
Mr McCabe said the offer was not meant as an opportunistic recruitment drive to take advantage of the current instability around migration policy in the US.
“We will explicitly not be pitching anyone on working for Intercom,” he said.
“This is not a recruitment drive for Intercom.”
Intercom’s move comes after Limerick-born Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison announced that he would match donations of up to $50,000 (€46,350) to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has pledged to fight Mr Trump’s new immigration policy.
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