120,0000 people will leave Ireland in 2010 and 2011 new figures show. Many will be heading to the United States where local immigration activists say even those who  are coming her illegally are getting work.

Ciaran Staunton, of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in New York told the Sunday Independent that illegals are coming to America in large numbers and getting work.

"We've all heard the stories about the hardships of people living illegally out here and what it's like but the truth is, if you want to get away from all the problems in Ireland at the moment, and pay your mortgage or your credit card bill or whatever it is for a few years, it can be done out here.

"There are jobs for people here even if they come over illegally." Celine Kennelly of the San Francisco Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre said most find work within days of arrival.

"None of the illegals here are out of work. They are all earning money and doing ok for themselves. There are problems for people if they want to stay here long term because every time you go home, you might not be allowed back into the country. You're not allowed to get a driver's licence and that causes a lot of problems for people.

She told the Sunday Independent that " in the short term it is an alternative that people can consider."

"Most people don't come here intending to settle down.

"They come over to get a job and make some money but then they meet someone and start a family or they get used to being here and it becomes their new home and it becomes harder to leave."

New statistics quoted in The Irish Times showed that in the 12 months to April 2010, 65,300 people left the country, a figure close to  the 70,600 people who emigrated in 1989.

Most are bound for Australia, Canada, Britain, New Zealand and the US.

The US numbers are difficult to quantify because of the illegal issue but anecdotal evidence is strong that numbers of Irish are increasing significantly.