Review sought of scheme allowing migrant parents to live in Ireland


A REVIEW of the scheme under which the immigrant parents of Irish-born children can live in Ireland has been called for by the Ombudsman for Children.

Emily Logan made the call in launching a report on the scheme by UCC academic Dr Liam Coakley for the New Communities Partnership.

Ms Logan said the current scheme did not have at its centre the welfare of children, as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, or the constitutional position of the family as the fundamental unit of society.

The scheme was introduced in 2005, the year after a referendum was passed ending the automatic right to Irish citizenship of children born in Ireland to immigrant parents.

The administrative scheme was designed to deal with the situation of children born in Ireland before that date and living here. Under it the parents could apply for a renewable two-year residency, subject to certain conditions.

These included signing a statutory declaration that they would not be involved in criminal activity, make every effort to be economically viable or prepare for work and accepted that residency did not confer any entitlement to family reunification.

These conditions have proved very problematic for the families involved, according to Dr Coakley.

Often the mother of the Irish-born child obtained residency, sometimes along with children born outside Ireland. These children then had different status from the younger Irish citizen siblings, affecting their right to education.

For example, even if they had their entire school education in Ireland, they were treated as non-EU citizens in relation to third-level education, and would be asked to pay non-EU level fees, many multiples of the fees for Irish and EU students. The parents also had difficulty accessing grants for further education, needed to enhance their employability.

In many cases the children’s father did not live in Ireland, as if he sought to do so he faced deportation. This split up families. The parent who had residency, usually the mother, found it very difficult to work and to manage childcare, although it was a condition of her residency that she sought to be economically independent.

If forced to rely on social welfare, which most people in this situation did not wish to do, she was not treated as eligible for lone parent’s allowance, as she was married and separated by distance, not by relationship breakdown.

This combination of circumstances was forcing many families with Irish-born children into poverty and exclusion from Irish society, Dr Coakley said.

“The riots in Paris were not driven by first-generation immigrants, who will put up with almost anything, but by second-generation immigrants who suffered discrimination and exclusion,” he warned.

The report recommended drawing up clear criteria governing the entitlement to family reunion in the forthcoming Immigration Bill; access to educational supports; effective information on all rights and entitlements through a one-stop shop; changes in the definition of lone parents, for the purpose of the allowance, to allow for separation by distance; and the inclusion of all children in the State in the forthcoming children’s rights amendment.