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Migrant Children in Ireland: New Research

Three researchers based in the Department of Geography at University College Cork have produced Tell Me About Yourself : Children and Young People’s Experiences of Moving To and Living in Ireland. The report, launched at the end of September, documents the experiences of 190 young people, aged 3-18   from African/Irish, central/eastern European, Latin American and returning Irish backgrounds. The report finds that:

  • Having friends and making connections with others is more important to migrant children than emphasising their national or ethnic differences.  Children’s senses of belonging  emphasised their sameness in relation to their peers rather than their difference. According to the research team, in this context, integration policies which focus on migrant children’s perceived differences from their ‘Irish’ peers can be imbalanced.
  • Despite the emphasis in current debates on migrant children’s national identities and the use of labels such as ‘non-national’ to describe them, the children often made their strongest connections at the local and global scales rather than the national. Many were part of strong transnational family networks, some could travel back and forth to their home countries regularly, and many kept in touch with friends and family in other countries through their use of internet-based technologies.
  • While migrant children did not always feel connected to Ireland per se, they often described attachments to local places, for example, places where they hung out with friends, their housing estates and sometimes their schools.
  • Migrant children  and youth could be marginalised and made to feel different in school. The report agues that  this is unsurprising in some ways, given that Irish society tends to define migrant children by their perceived cultural difference to ‘Irish’ children.
  • The lack of play facilities and opportunities for interaction with local children was particularly problematic for children living in direct provision accommodation centres.
  • While current policies tend to focus on English language tuition or on meeting migrant children’s basic needs, the researchers emphasise the need to mainstream migrant children’s rights in key policy areas and to acknowledge their rights both as migrants and as children.
  • According to the research team, there is an urgent need for migration and integration policies to recognize children’s perspectives, given that almost 20% of all migrants in Ireland are aged 19 and under, and that they and their peers will play a major role in intercultural relations in Ireland into the 21st century.

Adapted from this press release.

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