Council urges reform of immigration rules

Mon, Jul 9, 2012, 01:00

IMMIGRANT CHILDREN face serious challenges which could impact on their entire lives due to the failure of the education and immigration systems to keep pace with the needs of this growing group, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

The council yesterday published recommendations on improving the situation of young immigrants. They are included in its submission to a public consultation by the Department of Children on the issue.

One in seven children now comes from a migrant background, according to Brian Killoran, information and referral service co-ordinator with the council.

“Once they turn 16 all non-EU citizen migrant children must register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau, a fact that immediately differentiates them from their classmates and peers.

“They must produce their registration card when requested, and may not be allowed to seek after-school or weekend work. In most cases the GNIB registration card costs €150 a year.”

He said many migrant children had grown up in Ireland, had developed fluency in English and had established local networks of friends. “It is a great injustice that this natural integration process is interrupted and jeopardised through the failings of our immigration system. In many cases the turmoil and confusion generated in this crucial phase of a young person’s life can deeply affect them and impact on their motivation and educational progress.”

The council is critical of the fact that if a migrant child has not been naturalised as an Irish citizen by the time they reach third-level education, they are generally required to pay either EU citizen or international student fees to continue their studies.

“The ICI has been contacted in the past by parents of young people who received 500 points in their Leaving Certificate but were unable to progress to third-level education because of the prohibitive costs,” said Mr Killoran.

Among the recommendations in the council submission are:

* legislative reform to provide clear, fair and comprehensive immigration rules;

* a review of the structure of third-level education tuition fees;

* measures to tackle racism and xenophobia as a national priority through education and awareness-raising initiatives, and co-ordinated monitoring of racist incidents nationally.

It also calls for the criminalisation of men who purchase sex, and the provision of practical resources to the Garda and the immigration authorities to ensure they can properly assist children who have been trafficked and/or involved in the sex industry.