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Minister for Education takes significant step to address inequalities facing migrant children

MEA members

MEDIA RELEASE 25.07.2013

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) today welcomed a policy change to allow students who have secured Irish citizenship to reverse their fee status at third level. The change means migrant students who become Irish citizens during third level will no longer be forced to continue paying the high fees applied to those without Irish citizenship.

The MRCI was responding to plans unveiled today by Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn to introduce a mechanism allowing third level students who have naturalised to reverse their fee status. The move addresses a key recommendation from MRCI’s Migrant Education Access (MEA) campaign which has been calling for equality for children of Non-EU migrants accessing third level education in Ireland. “This is an important and timely step in the right direction,” said Helen Lowry, coordinator of the Migrant Education Access (MEA) campaign. “It’s a positive move by the Minister because it recognises not only the potential of Ireland’s diverse youth, but the rights of the children of the first generation of immigrants who have made Ireland their home.”

MEA member Tatiana Bezborodova came to Ireland to join her parents when she was just 7 years old. Despite securing citizenship in June of last year she has been unable to reverse her fee status in Trinity College Dublin where she is now entering her final year in medicinal chemistry. Speaking today, Tatiana said, “My family has made big sacrifices to send me to university. My parents have had to pay tuition fees of €7400 per year, even after I became an Irish citizen. Now I will finally be treated the same as other Irish citizens. I feel like a huge load has been lifted off my shoulders; this change will make my final year more possible and will help hundreds of others like me.”

Nally Silva, another MEA campaigner, is entering her third year of midwifery in UCC.  She came to Ireland to join her parents over 12 years ago, but has not yet secured Irish citizenship due to gaps in immigration laws for children. “This doesn’t address all of the barriers facing young people like me but it’s an important first step and gives us real hope for the future. My parents pay huge fees and I don’t qualify for any grants.  Today’s announcement doesn’t change this: the criteria for accessing grants and the Free Fees Scheme needs to be updated to include long-term residency. There are many others like me who were born outside Ireland but have gone through primary and secondary school here and then face huge barriers to third level.”

Tatiana concluded, “On behalf of the young people involved in this campaign we do feel that we have being listened to by the Minister. I got involved not just to resolve my own situation but to fight for equality for all young migrants who like me grew up here and call Ireland home. This is my home. And my future here is a lot brighter today.”

ENDS

NOTES:

The Migrant Education Access campaign today released research previously shared with both the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Justice and Equality. The 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.

Read the research HERE.

Recommendations to the Department of Education and Skills included:

  • Immediate provision of a mechanism for young people who have secured Irish citizenship to reverse their fee status. Whilst already catered for by some HEIs, uniform guidelines are needed to allow young people to enjoy the privileges of Irish citizenship in accordance with Art. 40.1 of our Constitution.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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, which is made up of young people, parents and supporters from all over Ireland, can be found HERE.