Press Centre

Facing Barriers to Education and Citizenship, Ireland’s 1.5 Generation Calls for Change

MEA members

MEDIA RELEASE 13.03.2013

Today at a national education seminar in Dublin’s Science Gallery, young migrants and their families and supporters highlighted serious gaps in our education system and citizenship practices.

Helen Lowry of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) said “These young people are Ireland’s 1.5 generation, the children of the first generation of immigrants who made Ireland home. They were all born outside of the EU, came here to join their parents and have grown up in Ireland. Our immigration and education policies and procedures simply failed to consider their arrival.”

Speaking at today’s ‘Minding the Gap’ seminar, 21-year-old Jesha Lou said “I came to Ireland from the Philippines over 8 years ago to join my parents. Because of flawed immigration laws I’m still waiting for citizenship. Even though I worked really hard in my Leaving Cert and was offered nursing, my first choice on my CAO form, I couldn’t go to college because I would have had to pay over €7,000 a year. My Dad couldn’t afford those fees.”

Tatiana Bezborodova, a third year medicinal chemistry student, came to Ireland from Russia at the age of 7 ½. She said “I am one of the lucky ones. I managed to get into university despite the high fees and problems obtaining citizenship, but I am a complete drain on my parents’ resources. I finally became an Irish citizen last June at the end of my second year in college, yet I can’t reverse my fee status and enjoy the privileges of being an Irish citizen. We’re not looking for special treatment, just equal treatment.”

“If you haven’t got citizenship before you start college, you don’t qualify for free fees or access to Higher Education grants,” Ms Lowry explained. “The current situation represents a missed opportunity for these bright and dynamic young people to make a valuable contribution not only to Irish society but to Irish economic recovery. We believe the Minister for Education is committed to achieving equality in education. Whilst the forthcoming Immigration, Residence and Protection bill should provide a long-term solution, in the interim the Department of Education has the power to ensure the Class of 2013 can progress to third level. We can’t afford not to act; by investing in young people now, the government is investing in Ireland’s future.”

 

NOTES

The Issue:

  • Our current immigration system has not been constructed to deal with the needs and realities of child dependents.
  • Minors are not obliged or able to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau until they reach the age of 16; when they do, the residence stamps they are given – intended for foreign students (stamp 2/2a) or spouse dependents (stamp 3) – do not reflect the realities of young migrants who have come to Ireland to join their parents. These stamps have caused problems in securing long-term residency and citizenship for children of non-EU migrants.
  • The window of opportunity for a young migrant to secure citizenship is too narrow, and if they have not been naturalised by the time they reach third level they generally face EU or international student fees – three times more than that paid by their Irish peers.
  • Young people who have grown up in Ireland and gone to secondary school here are denied access to financial assistance and the free fee scheme upon entry to third level.
  • Young people (like Tatiana, above) who have secured citizenship during their time in third level are often unable to reverse their fee status and have no choice but to continue to pay these high tuition fees for the remainder of their third level education.

Further Information:

 Two-page briefing note: http://mrci.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Access-to-education-Briefing-Note.pdf

Education section on MRCI website: http://www.mrci.ie/our-work/young-people-education/

Twitter: #mrcimea