Irish Times on an important issue for immigrants and irish children

The Irish Times – Monday, March 14, 2011
Irish citizen children
ONE OF the first tasks of the new Minister for Justice will be to decide the State’s attitude to the right of Irish children born to non-EU parents to live in Ireland. The European Court of Justice (ECJ), whose decisions are binding on Ireland, has ruled that the non-EU parents of an EU citizen child must be allowed to live and work in the EU state of which the child is a citizen, if the child would otherwise be deprived of his or her citizen’s rights. Until 2005, any child born in Ireland was automatically an Irish citizen. The Constitution was changed in 2004 and legislation was enacted a year later to ensure a child born here can become a citizen only if at least one parent is Irish or has lived here for a number of years.

The State has taken the view that the rights of a child who is an Irish citizen are subordinate to the right of the State to maintain its borders and the integrity of its immigration system. There have been a number of cases where the parents of Irish citizen children were deported because their entitlement to live in Ireland, either as asylum seekers or as immigrants, had expired.

Twenty Irish citizen children have been forced to leave the country over the past five years following the deportation of their parents and more than 100 judicial reviews are pending in relation to parents of Irish citizen children seeking leave to appeal against deportation. These parents fall into a number of categories. Some are failed asylum seekers with children born before 2005 who are Irish citizens and know no life outside Ireland. Others came here to work legally but lost their work permits when they lost their jobs and no longer have the right to reside in Ireland. Yet others are married and have children with Irish citizens but faced deportation before marrying and continue to do so.

Therefore, the Irish citizen children and their parents who might benefit from the ECJ ruling are relatively few in number and are people with an established life in this State – in the case of the children, their life here is generally the only one they know.

The much-amended Immigration and Residence Bill fell with the last government and the new Government is committed to introducing comprehensive reform in the area, which should address the ECJ ruling. It is also committed to a children’s rights referendum. Pending such reforms, there is a strong humanitarian argument in favour of permitting Irish citizen children who have lived here most or all of their lives to continue to do so along with their parents.