Conference told of need to reunite migrant families

 

Migrant workers and refugees are suffering the heartache of being denied the right to live with their children, partners or spouses due to major inadequacies in Irish immigration policy and administration, a conference was told yesterday.

Delegates at a family reunification conference held by the Irish Immigrant Support Service (Nasc), and the Refugee Information Service (RIS) in Cork, were told of the plight of Marie Claire Kah from the Ivory Coast, who has not seen her eldest daughter in over four years.

Ms Kah's daughter was under 18 when she applied for permission to enter the country but she was over 18 when her case was finally looked at and turned down.

Marie Claire was granted refugee status after suffering persecution in the Ivory Coast and has been living in Ireland for over four years. In October 2004, the Department of Justice allowed her two teenage sons to join her in Ireland. However, it turned down her request for her eldest daughter, who was over 18, to join her here.

The conference addressed a range of issues facing families who have been divided by the Irish system, from administrative delays to legal obstacles, to having family deemed too old to be allowed into the country.

Journalist Nell McCafferty said the only way to change Ireland's law was to change attitudes in society. She spoke of being treated in hospital by Filipino nurses and recalled hearing their heartbreaking stories of being far from their children in order to pay for their education.

Gertrude Cotter, director of Nasc, said the Government has not realised the importance of family life on both integration or quality of life for immigrants.