Government action urged over high fees for migrant children

Non-EU residents forced to pay up to €8,000 a year in fees to universities

Thu, Mar 14, 2013, 08:07

The Government must address the problem of children of non-EU residents paying up to €8,000 in college fees, campaigners have urged.

Up to 500 young people every year face high fees for third- level education despite living in Ireland for a number of years. This is because without Irish or EU citizenship, they have to pay amounts applicable to overseas students.

Discrimination warning
The Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland has warned this amounts to discrimination since these young people consider themselves Irish. They have often gone through primary and secondary education for free but are being frustrated in trying to access college.

“These are the children of first-generation migrants to Ireland and we need to be concerned about what this is going to do to social cohesion,” said Helen Lowry, community work co-ordinator of the centre.

Some families were having to put their finances under pressure to come up with the fees but others were forced to opt out of college, she said. “People are making huge sacrifices but we are particularly concerned about the people who don’t make it in to college.”

The centre wants the Government to fast-track people applying for Irish citizenship whose children are approaching college-going age and who would also get citizenship.

It wants a code of practice for universities whereby they could allow migrant children to reduce their payments on becoming Irish citizens – something only some third-level institutions do at present.

Rule change
The Government needs to change the rules so migrant children pay the same as Irish students, based on how many years they have lived here, not on what their citizenship is, the centre adds.

The Department of Education said it was “keenly aware of the problem” and was “examining ways to address it”.