Conclusion: Separated Children in Ireland

IRC-LogoDr Liam Thornton is a lecturer in law in University College Dublin.

A number of core themes and issues have emerged from today’s blog carnival, organised by Samantha Arnold of the Irish Refugee Council.

In Samantha’s post, she noted that separated children need to be cared for under the Child Care Act 1991, and the challenges that social workers faced when dealing with separated children in Ireland. Samantha looked at how the Independent Advocacy Pilot was leading to better outcomes for separated children, yet also the enormous challenges facing separated children as they transition to adulthood. Lisa has noted the sense of purpose and achievement of involvement with the Independent Advocacy Pilot and has emphasised the role of the voice of the child as being key to understanding their needs, wishes and dreams. Tom, relying on his expertise from working with separated children in both the UK and Ireland concludes that while their are differences between both jurisdictions, a key unifier is, how the treatment of separated children by the state can add to the already enormous toll these children are under. This theme is taken forward by both Muireann and Brian.  Muireann notes the positive impact of fostering for separated children, how it gives these children a sense of belonging and provides much needed stability. Brian, discusses the issue of adulthood of aged out minors and the pitfalls involved in the direct provision system for these very vulnerable young men and women. Jenna is direct and correct in her analysis of the sense of loss faced by aged-out separated children, who will be moved into the direct provision system, and who may lose contact with those they have built up relationships with. However, as Jenna notes, the Independent Advocacy Pilot provides a platform for these young people to have their voices heard. John (BeLong To) in his posthas examined the toll which the direct provision system can have on LGBT young people (in particular those who are aged out minors), being secretive about their sexuality and gender identity, and the problems this may have for integration in Irish society.   (I have argued previously on this blog that the direct provision system has no legal basis and is solely designed to punish and potentially deter those who may claim asylum in Ireland). Cliodhna provides an oversight as to how separated children, who complete their secondary education in Ireland, have limited options once they complete their Leaving Certificate, with university attendance being an almost impossible goal for many.  Sue, the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, provides a worrying analysis of how children are treated within the refugee status determination bodies and the lack of a child centered approach to claims for refugee status.

The leading role that the Irish Refugee Council has taken in the Independent Advocacy Pilot is to be commended.  Once again, it has been civil society organisations that have been to the forefront of campaigns to protect the vulnerable, with limited concern (or interest) by the state or citizens of this state for the plight of separated children and young asylum seekers. The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill will do little to modify the current asylum and protection system, which is at the heart of the issues discussed in this blog carnival today. Just over a month since our constitution recognised “the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children”, we await administrative agencies and state organs to ensure that this legal obligation towards all children in the state is truly protected, respected and vindicated.