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During a two-month period from June to July 2012, I supplied research assistance to the Research, Policy, and Promotion division of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC)[1] in Dublin, Ireland. Through archival research and consultations with experts on Ireland’s asylum application process, direct provision housing, and children’s rights, the research yielded policy recommendations for the IHREC’s follow-up report to the Government of Ireland’s examination under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) process and the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Since my time in Ireland, I have updated findings presented in this chapter by renewing correspondence with former colleagues at the IHREC and by following up on the implementation progress (if any) on various recommendations.

To answer the research questions detailed in the introduction, I embarked on a qualitative research study consisting of consultations with the IHREC Legal Enquiries division and the Research, Policy, and Promotion division. In addition, I referred to previous research documents and policy recommendations produced by the IHREC, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (e.g., the Irish Refugee Council), and international organizations, including the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). I worked to shed light on a topic that receives scant attention in mainstream academic writing on Ireland’s asylum policy: How the treatment of child asylum-seekers in direct provision illustrates its failure to uphold the articles of the CRC. I relied on consultations with staff from the IHREC, including staff who assisted adult and child asylum- seekers living in direct provision, as well as conducting desk research to understand the scope of the relevant academic literature.

Because of legal restrictions, I was unable to interview child asylum- seekers or their parents for this chapter. Still, my research benefited from meeting with experts at the IHREC on the asylum application process and direct provision system in Ireland. Furthermore, IHREC researchers and legal advocates directed me to relevant investigations by the Irish Refugee Council; European Migration Network; the Department of Justice and Equality, Reception and Integration Agency; and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), among others. The views expressed in this chapter are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the experts or organizations with whom I consulted.

Experts were chosen using a convenience sampling technique (i.e., snowball sampling). The goals of the study were largely exploratory, and I aimed to increase understanding of the experience of child asylumseekers in two ways: first, through an examination of the lived experience of children in relation to their rights guaranteed in the CRC; and second, through an exploration of possible policy changes to direct provision and the asylum application process in Ireland. Contribution to policy reform was accorded a higher priority in the study than to generalizable findings.

Although this chapter focuses on the experiences of child asylum- seekers in direct provision, it should be acknowledged that some children living in these accommodation centers are not necessarily seeking asylum. Some of them are children of adult asylum-seekers and have no independent claim of their own; some were born in Ireland to asylum-seeker parents housed in direct provision; and some are the children of one asylum-seeker parent and one Irish or European parent (Arnold 2012, 11). An adult asylum-seeker who gives birth to a child in Ireland are required to file an asylum application for him or her in order to receive financial support, even if the child has no fear of persecution (Thornton 2014a, 70).

For the sake of simplicity, I have chosen to refer to all children living in direct provision as “child asylum-seekers” or “asylum-seeker children” because, regardless of their status, their future hinges on decisions on their individual protection claim and/or decisions on their parents’/par- ent’s protection claims. Moreover, there is no clear immigration protocol in Ireland for children of adult asylum-seekers who, unlike their parents, may not face “individual persecution” per the UN Refugee Convention definition (Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission 2014, 4).

The research provided a greater understanding of the difficulties surrounding policymaking on asylum issues, especially when they affect children. Unfortunately, fears of asylum fraud and corresponding national security concerns lead to restrictions on asylum-seekers’ freedoms and access to public benefits. Although better treatment of asylum-seekers is not necessarily incompatible with addressing Ireland’s national security concerns, I had to ensure that my policy recommendations took into account the government’s frustration with a severely backlogged application-processing system; concerns related to application fraud; and applicants’ failures to appear for asylum interviews, court hearings, and other legal proceedings. Responding to the government’s security concerns while emphasizing the importance of the UN Refugee Convention and CRC compliance will provide greater insight into the often-difficult relationship between civil society groups and the Government of Ireland, an important dynamic for any migration researcher, migrant rights advocate, or practitioner to understand.

  • [1] The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) (formerly the Irish Human RightsCommission) has a statutory remit to protect and promote human rights and equality in theRepublic of Ireland. The IHREC is tasked with reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of law,policy, and practice relating to the protection of human rights and equality with making recommendations to the government on measures to strengthen, protect, and uphold human rights andequality accordingly.
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