After the Leaving Cert: another tough battle for an asylum-seeker

Opinion: Their parents are not permitted to work, and neither are they

‘The young women’s father spoke eloquently to me about how difficult it is to demand high standards of work and commitment, all the while knowing that under current circumstances, it is impossible for them to go to third level.’ Photograph: Getty Images

‘The young women’s father spoke eloquently to me about how difficult it is to demand high standards of work and commitment, all the while knowing that under current circumstances, it is impossible for them to go to third level.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 18:49

A very nervous teenager opens her Leaving Cert results, aware of her parents’ high expectations and that her older sister achieved high points two years previously.

Then there is the explosion of relief and joy as she realises her 510 points mean she will be eligible to study psychology.

Thus far it’s a common scene. Education is a priority for the majority of Irish parents, even though those who expect their child to go to college usually also expect to make significant financial sacrifices. For some, particularly during a recession, it will be out of the question immediately after Leaving Cert.

However, disappointing as not being able head off to college with their peers might be, for Irish young people there is at least the option of going as a mature student at 23, or perhaps of finding work that would allow them to study part-time or at night. Those options are much more difficult in a recession, but not impossible.

The family I described in the opening paragraphs is not fictitious. Its members live in an Irish town in the southwest. Like all other parents who value education, the parents in this family want their bright and hard-working children to get the chance to develop their talents and to give something back to society.

But none of the options I mentioned is open to the children in this family. They are asylum seekers.

Both the young woman who achieved that fantastic Leaving Cert result and her older sister felt it would be better if I used pseudonyms for them. They have nothing to hide but in their precarious situation the girls have learned to be very cautious.

Stuck in limbo

Lila, the older sister, has already had to cope with seeing her peers from secondary school forge ahead, leaving her behind, stuck in limbo.

The family members have been in the asylum-seeking system for six years and six months and have no idea when their case will be resolved.

The young women’s father spoke eloquently to me about how difficult it is to demand high standards of schoolwork, all the while knowing that under current circumstances it is impossible for the children to go to third level.

Lila and her younger sister, whom I will call Monna, would have to pay the same astronomically high fees as international students who have opted to come here to study. Their parents are not permitted to work, and neither are they.

So not only can Lila not pursue the course in commerce and international Chinese that she hoped for, she also has a completely empty CV.

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