Ireland: unaccompanied migrant children left in limbo

Unaccompanied irregular child migrants arriving in Ireland are often left in limbo until they are 18, warns the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). This means that young new refugees, who left their home countries as asylum seekers, are often without adequate support to integrate once they are granted international protection. The finding was published in its report, Approaches to Unaccompanied Minors Following Status Determination in Ireland, published 4 December 2018.

The report says decisions on the applications for international protection for irregular child migrants are often delayed until the applicant reaches the age of 18. If refugee status is granted after age 18, Ireland is no longer required to provide aftercare and support that they would afford to children. In contrast, children who enter Ireland through lawful allocation schemes, such as the EU relocation programme from Greece and the Calais Special Project, tend to be granted refugee status on arrival.

Most unaccompanied children arriving in the country irregularly are seeking protection from conflict, persecution or serious harm or to reunite with family members, the report said. A smaller number have come here as part of dedicated schemes.

“Civil society organisations observe that when a child has secured an immigration or protection status before turning 18 years old, the system works very well for them,” said Sarah Groarke, the lead author of the report. Unaccompanied minors who are granted refugee status on arrival receive care “on a par with other children in the care system” and are placed in foster care, supported lodgings or residential units.

“However, the vast majority face numerous challenges when they leave the care of the State and go into Direct Provision accommodation without resolution of their status,” said Groarke.

In 2017, some 175 unaccompanied minors, mostly boys between 16-17, were referred to the care of Tusla, the Irish Child and Family Agency. This is a rise from 126 in 2016, and majority of young arrivals are from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria and Ethiopia . To put into context, these numbers are low when compared with most other EU member states.

Groarke further noted that most unaccompanied minors in Ireland have no clear immigration status, as they rarely apply to be regularised on alternative grounds.

The report pinned some responsibility for the delays in the resolution of asylum applications on Tusla. Allegedly, some social workers deliberately delay the submission of applications for several reasons, such as the opinion that the child may not be prepared for the process or the fear that a negative result would be harmful for the child’s wellbeing.

TMP – 09/12/2018

Photo: Zeljko Sinobad/ Shutterstock.  Refugee children in Europe.