Child Migration Matters
Child migrants are one of the most vulnerable groups of children in Ireland. Whether in care, housed in Direct Provision centres while their parents await a decision on their right to stay in Ireland or settled with their families, children from a migrant background face a broad range of challenges. Over the last number of years we have worked alongside young people to identify the key problems they face and engage with law and policy makers to improve this situation.
The failure to consider the individual rights and needs of children in Ireland’s immigration system is having a devastating impact on the lives of too many migrant children in Ireland. Children we have met and supported are facing unacceptable and unnecessary challenges, left in limbo because their immigration status is unclear and facing a series of barriers if they ‘age out’ before this is sorted. These include having trouble accessing education, and having their health and housing rights respected. They are often entirely left out of decisions being made about their lives.
Our Constitution states the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration when making laws or policy that affect young people’s lives, but this has not always been the case to date. While efforts are made to meet migrant children’s needs in law and policy, there is a lack of consistency and accountability. While vulnerable children including refugees, children in care, unaccompanied minors and victims of human trafficking are particularly affected by this, all migrant children could face the consequences in seeking access to education, having a recognised residency status, or being protected from racism or exploitation.
In 2016 we published ‘Child Migration Matters’[link], the first research of its kind in Ireland, detailing in-depth the various areas of immigration and child law and policy which negatively affect migrant girls and boys in Ireland. A total of 32 young people provided testimony for the research and we spoke with more than 150 professionals. This publication and its recommendations will guide our work in this area.
Our calls for change focus on five main areas:
- Child protection: Ensuring being born in another country never puts a child to in increased danger of exploitation or harm.
- Care and support: The best interests of the child should always be the primary consideration in any decision regarding a child’s care. Any staff and foster carers working with or supporting children in a care setting must be trained on immigration matters, including the law, cultural competency and indicators of exploitation and trafficking.
- Immigration procedures: We are calling for a specific agency or contact point to be established which will take responsibility for providing information and legal advice on immigration to children and those supporting them, with specific attention to the additional challenges children in care face.
- Asylum seeking children: Take action to adequately respond to the unacceptably high numbers of children in extreme danger as a result of the refugee crisis through residency and relocation programmes. Parallel to these actions the State must child-proof the asylum process, with particular attention paid to the age assessment procedures and support of victims of trafficking.
- Awareness raising: The actions above must be accompanied by efforts to ensure increased awareness for parents, guardians and in education centres of the need to register children with immigration services so that they can access their entitlements such as further education without delay.
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