Adult asylum seekers 'are posing as school pupils' in desperate bid to stay
ADULT asylum seekers who lie about their age are attending Irish second-level schools alongside pupils as young as 12.
They are generally male, aged up to 21, and arrive in Ireland with such little personal information that immigration staff here have to guess their age.
The newly arrived immigrants do not admit their real age to try and bolster their refugee claims in a desperate bid to stay in the country.
Emma Quinn, who coordinates the Irish National Contact Point (NCP) of the European Migration Network (EMN), said adult asylum seekers successfully passing themselves off as teenagers is a problem which is unlikely to be "fully eradicated".
Upon arrival in Ireland, an unaccompanied minor claiming asylum must give an age to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
"But some asylum seekers don't have any documentation to prove their age, so they tell the authorities they are minors, simply to gain entry into the country," said Ms Quinn, who was addressing an EMN conference on the protection of unaccompanied minors in Dublin Castle.
"That age is accepted unless there is reason to suspect the person is lying.
"And while they can legally be refused entry into the State, it is Ireland's policy and practice not to return a child to another country without their parents.
"So they'll be allowed in and the social workers may have to make a call on their age."
She said major changes have been implemented, especially in the model of care provided for unaccompanied minors since 2009.
"Back in the crisis days, adults who were pretending to be children may have disappeared, prior to any kind of age assessment being done," she told the Irish Independent.
"But now they are assigned a social worker, and placed in foster care or supported lodgings. That means there is much closer supervision."
The majority of asylum seekers enter Ireland from strife-hit parts of Africa.
Unaccompanied minors are legally entitled to an education, the same as any other child in the country, Ms Quinn said.
"They have an entitlement to pursue their education up to the end of their Leaving Certificate."
Ms Quinn believes the complicated nature of the problem means it is unlikely to be ever fully resolved.
The Garda National Immigration Bureau is contacted in cases where someone is found to have lied about their age, she said.