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Sunday 15 September 2019

Give undocumented children right to remain here, says migrants group

MRCI director Edel McGinley
MRCI director Edel McGinley

Allison Bray

Social activists are urging the government to give 3,000 children of illegal immigrants the right to remain in Ireland by bringing in new legislation.

Officials from the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) and the Children’s Rights Alliance held a press conference this morning urging the government to adopt a "pathway to residency" for an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 ‘undocumented’ children of migrants who were born in Ireland or who have lived here for years.

“We’re asking the Minister of Justice to recognise the time they have spent here,” said MRCI director Edel McGinley.

When you’re an undocumented young person you can’t fulfil your potential. Every part of your life is impacted including your education, future career and your ability to take part in your community. Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance

A survey of 108 parents of undocumented children released today by MRCI reveals that the overwhelming majority – 68pc – of undocumented children were born in the State, with just under a third (32pc) born outside of Ireland.

Some 78pc of those born outside of Ireland have lived here for more than five years, with some here for more than 16 years.

Many of their parents came to Ireland on a tourist visa during the boom years and were promised a work permit by their employers, Ms McGinley told Independent.ie.

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Tanya Ward of the Children's Rights Alliance (INM)

Yet once they were in Ireland they found they had no legal right to work or live here, she said.

“They were mislead by many employers,” she said.

Regardless of their legal status, many stayed after bringing their children with them or having children here.

Yet now these people and their children are living in limbo and in constant fear of being deported, she said.

I’ve been here for 16 years. We don’t want to be undocumented. We want to be contributing member of society. Rashmi, who moved to Dublin with her family from Sri Lanka when she was eight years old

Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said: “When you’re an undocumented young person you can’t fulfil your potential. Every part of your life is impacted including your education, future career and your ability to take part in your community.

“Three years ago the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child highlighted this issue and urged Ireland to introduce clear and accessible pathways to immigration status for these children; action is now urgently required. These children need those solutions so that they can get on with living the full lives that they deserve.”

Rashmi (24) moved to Dublin with her family from Sri Lanka when she was eight years old.

READ MORE: Government accused of ‘dangerously fudging’ data on migration report

She considers Dublin her home, yet despite completing her Leaving Cert and being accepted at two universities here, she said she cannot progress the same way as her peers because immigration status prevents her from working or attending third-level education.

“It’s a constant burden on you. It’s a cloud hanging over you,” she said.

“I’ve been here for 16 years. We don’t want to be undocumented. We want to be contributing member of society,” said Rashmi, who aspires to study human rights law.

Asked why the Government should forego immigration law in order to accommodate undocumented migrants and their children, Ms McGinley said: “The immigration system is very hard to navigate. There isn’t a procedure for someone to have their case considered. We have very limited legal avenues to come to Ireland.”

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