Nossas redes sociais

‘Young migrants in Ireland are treated as children, not asylum seekers’

idi euaCountry’s approach means child migrants are given the same level of support as Irish children in the care system

Country’s approach means child migrants are given the same level of support as Irish children in the care system
David Brindle

When the first group of unaccompanied child migrants arrived in Ireland from the Calais refugee camp earlier this year, their progress through Dublin airport was impeded by well-wishers who wanted the youngsters to know they were welcome.

“I vividly remember not one but two elderly Irish gentlemen, 10 minutes apart, who each insisted we tell the kids they were really glad they were here,” says Thomas Dunning, principal social worker with the team for separated children seeking asylum at Tusla, Ireland’s child and family agency. “That reflects the marked change in feeling we’ve seen in the past 12 months.”

Last November, the Irish parliament responded to public clamour by making an all-party commitment to accept up to 200 children who’d been living in the (by-then dismantled) Calais camp. Extra resources were promised for Tusla, which oversees a well-established programme for child migrants that is regarded as a model of good practice around the world.

In late October, the Irish programme will be one of the approaches discussed at a conference in Stockholm, organised by the European Social Network, on meeting the needs of migrant children and young people. Sweden has been dealing with some of the largest numbers of child refugees, receiving more than 35,000 in 2015 alone.

“Our numbers are small by comparison – we had 126 last year,” says Dunning. “But we are proud of what we do and we have a ‘child first’ ethos – they are treated as a child, not an asylum seeker – and an equity of care principle that’s almost unique in Europe.”

This principle guarantees that child migrants are given the same level of care and support as Irish children in the care system. It was introduced in 2009 after providers had been overwhelmed by the numbers of unaccompanied young people arriving in the early years of the decade – a peak of 1,085 in 2001 – and resorted to accommodating them in dormitory-style hostels.

The last hostel was shut in 2010 and migrant children are now placed in foster care or small children’s homes, each accommodating no more than six. The child will enter the asylum process “if and when appropriate”, sponsored by the social worker assigned to them on arrival in loco parentis. The social worker accompanies them through the process even if they turn 18 and legally become an adult.

The number of child migrants arriving in Ireland is growing again, including those being admitted from shelters in Greece via the European resettlement scheme. The UK has reportedly taken none from Greece this year, citing procedural difficulties.

Dunning, himself a migrant from the US, is confident that Ireland can deal with the rising numbers. “I feel we are ready for it,” he says. “I can go and say, ‘I need this Irish child to get that, and this child from Ghana needs to have it too’. I am listened to and the resources are put in place.”

Dunning’s team of 17 at Tusla is complemented by a separate, 11-strong children’s service at the City of Dublin Education and Training Board (ETB), which is led by manager Jessica Farnan, who will be speaking at the Stockholm conference.

On arrival, children go straight into a programme designed to prepare them for mainstream schooling. The programme was first envisaged to last six weeks, but low education levels among the current wave of young migrants – and typically limited English – means they usually need longer preparation, sometimes a year or more.

“In some cases they have little by way of reading or writing skills in their own language and we are really starting from scratch,” says Farnan. “It can be a case of ‘learning to learn’. Those who have been in Calais may have to learn how to go to school and how to get up in the morning.”

Most arrivals from France are boys, originally from Afghanistan or Somalia. Their needs may be quite different to those coming from Syria via Greece, says Farnan. “The ETB first researched the needs of unaccompanied minors 15 or so years ago, but we have changed what we do as the system has changed. We carry on doing that.”

Fonte: The Guardian – 04/10/17

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