The Immigrant Council is calling for a specific agency for children
A new report has found that Ireland's immigration system is having a devastating impact on the lives of migrant children.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland say this is due to a failure to consider the individual rights and needs of children in the immigration system.
It has published a research report, 'Child Migration Matters: Children and Young People’s Experiences of Migration'.
The report outlines children and young people's experiences of navigating the immigration system, accessing legal advice and legal representation, and the impact of immigration status on access to education and employment.
It found that children are largely invisible in Ireland's immigration system.
"Until 16, they are assumed to have the same immigration permission as their parent, but cannot access confirmation of this position", the Immigrant Council says.
"There is no legislation or guidance on the appropriate permissions to be granted to children.
"This lack of clarity results in inconsistency in the immigration permissions granted to children when they turn 16, even in identical circumstances.
The council also says the immigration status and access to citizenship for children in care is not adequately addressed.
"Despite being in the care of the State, they are not automatically considered to be lawfully resident. Their immigration permission still depends on their parents.
"Children cannot easily access information or specialised legal advice about their immigration status.
"They are frequently unaware of their duty to register with GNIB (Garda National Immigration Bureau) at 16 years, or their eligibility for naturalisation."
At the launch of the report, the Immigrant Council called for the establishment of a specific agency or contact point to take responsibility for providing information and legal advice on immigration to children.
Brian Killoran, CEO of the Immigrant Council, said: "The challenges faced by migrant children in Ireland are highlighted in this landmark, first-of-its-kind publication.
"The findings are concerning, most notably that young people are prevented from participating fully in Irish life when their immigration status is not addressed as children.
"The evidence uncovered by the report highlight the central issues of the lack of available and accessible information for children regarding their immigration status and what they need to do to secure it, plus the challenges in accessing specialised legal advice when it is needed."
Katie Mannion, solicitor with the Immigrant Council and author of the report, added: "Migrant children in State care are at a particular disadvantage because they do not live with their parents on whom their immigration permission is dependent.
"In the absence of a tailored permission, they lack certainty about their immigration status."
Mr Killoran concluded: "We are calling on the Government and associated State agencies to recognise the devastating impact that the information vacuum is having on children who have faced enough difficulties already in their short lives.
"Our report highlights the desperate need for the creation of a specific agency or contact point that will take responsibility for providing specialised information and legal support, where needed, on immigration to children and other key stakeholders."