The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) supports calls from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) to fast track citizenship applications for students who have just finished their Leaving Certificate.
This would ensure that they can have access to exchequer-funded education and are eligible to apply for college grants before September.
MRCI estimates that around 700 students could benefit from the move.
As it stands, many young people who have grown up in Ireland and made it their home are being excluded from educational opportunities and future career prospects. They are at greater risk of poverty and social exclusion.
The current situation represents a missed opportunity for young people to make a valuable contribution to the Irish economy. Finding a solution to this problem will enable this generation of young people to participate in and contribute to Irish society.
USI also believes that Minister Ruairí Quinn has a great opportunity to ease barriers by directing colleges to take a unified approach on how students are treated for tuition fees. Currently, colleges charge EU or even non-EU fees to students, even if they gain citizenship while enrolled in a third-level course.
USI believes that a provision to reverse fees status is needed for young people who have secured Irish citizenship so that they can be treated the same as any other citizen in accordance with the Irish constitution.
USI absolutely agrees with the MRCI that the current inequality of the system undermines Ireland’s commitment to integration and the rights of children and families.
Urgent government action is required to remove these unnecessary barriers and to provide a system that is sensible, fair, and just.
Joe O’ Connor, USI President said:
‘There is a window of opportunity here for the Minister of Education and Skills to reduce barriers to education for students. Fast tracking citizenship applications and introducing a mechanism to re-evaluate fees status once Irish citizenship is obtained will make a real difference to the lives of these young people and their families.
This is an equity of access issue that can be resolved. It is unjust that children of first generation immigrants who have made Ireland their home find themselves facing huge financial barriers when it comes to progressing to third-level education. Many of these immigrants are currently attending primary or secondary education here.
USI encourages the Department of Education and Skills to take action on this issue immediately to alleviate pressure on families, and allow these young people the opportunity to progress with their education and to reach their full potential.’
The Union of Students in Ireland unanimously passed policy at Congress 2013 to support migrant access to education and the MRCI campaign.
The Union of Students in Ireland was founded in 1959 to represent the interests of all students studying on the island of Ireland.
Ben Archibald, USI General Manager