Press Centre

Young migrants anxiously await Leaving Cert results…and citizenship

MEDIA RELEASE 14.08.2013

As students receive their Leaving Cert results, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) highlights the extra difficulties faced by young migrants progressing to third level.

For thousands of young people, today is the end of a long and anxious wait – but for some, yet another piece of paper will determine whether or not they can continue to third level. Cork teenager Marielle Cruz receives her Leaving Cert results today, but the wait for citizenship continues.

Marielle said “I’m nervous about my results and if I will get my first offer, but in a way I’m even more nervous about my citizenship application. My parents paid €950 for me to apply for citizenship and I just really hope I get word back from the Department of Justice before university starts in September. I’m not sure my parents can afford even the first year of tuition fees if I don’t have citizenship. ”

Marielle came to Ireland to join her parents as a child dependant in 2007. If she becomes a citizen before term starts, she will pay the same registration fee as all other Irish citizens; if not, her parents will have to work out how to pay tuition fees: an estimated €8000 - €10,000 per year. “The Minister for Education recently announced that naturalised students will be able to reverse their fee status, which is great news, but if I can’t afford to start college in the first place it’s not much use to me,” Marielle concluded.

Helen Lowry, coordinator of MRCI’s Migrant Education Access campaign, warned “Time is running out for these young people in the citizenship queue. Many find themselves without citizenship, through no fault of their own, years after their arrival in Ireland. These young people are bright and ambitious, and they just want a chance to progress: we would urge that their applications for naturalisation are fast-tracked by the Department of Justice and Equality.”

Ms Lowry concluded, “The fact that these young people have lived in Ireland for a minimum of 5 years and often much longer, while their parents work and pay taxes here, needs to be acknowledged and reflected in Government policy. Criteria for access to financial assistance at third level need to be updated by the Department of Education and Skills to include residency and not just citizenship. And we urgently need an Immigration Bill to bring in permanent pathways to citizenship for child dependants.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITOR:

A recently-published Migrant Education Access campaign research and policy paper includes a full set of recommendations regarding access to citizenship and third level for the children of Ireland’s first generation of immigrants. The paper is available here.

Recommendations to the Department of Education and Skills include:

  1. Urgent development of a coherent set of guidelines for all Irish HEIs clarifying tuition fees for the children of non-EU migrants. These guidelines would be informed by an immediate re-examination of the criteria of access to financial assistance for higher education (Free Fees scheme and Higher Education Grants). In keeping with good international practice, residency would inform criteria for accessing financial assistance. Any young person resident in the state a minimum of three years should have access to financial assistance at third level.
  2. The Department to resource information sharing and awareness raising with secondary schools and teachers about this issue before young people complete their Leaving Certificate, in particular with career guidance teachers.

Recommendations on immigration policy and legislation include:

  1. Passage of a comprehensive Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill is urgently needed to guarantee rights and pathways of permanent residency and citizenship to young migrants in this situation. This Bill needs to legislate for registration of minors upon arrival, conferring a consistent clear and independent residency stamp that counts towards permanent residency and citizenship.
  2. In the shorter term, in recognition of the current role citizenship plays in accessing third level education and in light of the ad hoc scheme in place for young people, applications for naturalisation for young people in this situation need to be fast tracked by the Department of Justice and Equality.

MRCI and the Migrant Education Access campaign recently welcomed changes by Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn which will allow third level students who become Irish citizens during their time at college to reverse their fee status, as recommended in the above paper. Read our press release.

Young people involved in Migrant Education Access campaign produced a short animation about barriers they experience: watch it here.

Further information on the Migrant Education Access (MEA) campaign is available here.