19 June 2017 - On World Refugee Day 2017, University College Dublin and the Irish Refugee Council’s joint conference considers the rights and needs of children and young people experiencing forced migration.

Every day children and young people are forced to flee their homes because of persecution and war. Some reach Ireland, either independently or with family. At present Ireland has committed to bring 200 unaccompanied minors to Ireland from Calais, 21 of whom have arrived and five unaccompanied children have arrived from Greece, while over 1000 young people and children continue to reside in Ireland’s Direct Provision system.

Dr. Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, Lecturer in Social Work at University College Dublin said,

“An increasing number of individuals and organisations have the privilege of working with refugee children and young people in various fields including education, law, and social care. This conference draws together academics, practitioners and young people to explore the needs of refugee children from multidisciplinary perspectives. It aims to build on existing knowledge and experience in order to contribute to best practice.”

She went on to say, “In order to work towards best practice it is essential to have the voices and lived experiences of children and young people playing a central and active role in informing policies that directly affect their lives, rights and wellbeing.”

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said, 

“Refugee children and young people are often portrayed as vulnerable, but their experiences and identities are rooted in resilience, strength and courage. As one of many events taking place around Ireland to mark World Refugee Day 2017, our conference will examine their experiences and needs.”

Henderson went on to say, “Ireland’s record on the treatment of children and young people seeking protection is mixed. We welcome the Government’s decision to voluntarily opt in to the EU relocation scheme and receive unaccompanied children who were in Calais, despite progress on both being slow. The Irish Defence Forces presence in the Mediterranean is also extremely important. Over 15,000 people have been rescued, a significant number of whom are children. The care provision for unaccompanied children has also improved in many respects over the years.”

“On other issues the record is less positive. In particular, Direct Provision remains an entirely unsuitable place for a child to live. Experts, including the Government appointed Special Rapporteur on Child Protection and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have raised various, serious concerns about Direct Provision.”

- ENDS -

Caroline Reid, IRC, 0858585510

Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, UCD, 0863809946

Nick Henderson and Muireann Ní Raghallaigh are available for interview

  • Under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme Ireland has committed to resettle and relocate 4,000 refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Following an all-party motion passed by Dáil Éireann, the Government agreed to relocate up to 200 separated children who had been in the Calais area.
  • Under ‘Operation Pontus’ the Irish Defence Forces have, since May 2015, been deployed to the Mediterranean to assist in the ‘humanitarian crisis’.
  • As of May 2017, 1230 children reside in Ireland’s Direct Provision system; 710 people young people, between the ages of 18 and 25, reside in Direct Provision.
  • 9th report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection is available here.
  • Concluding observations on the combined third and fourth periodic reports of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child available here.
Conference details

UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice and the Irish Refugee Council’s conference on World Refugee Day, 20 June 2017 will explore approaches to meeting the needs of children, both unaccompanied and accompanied, who are in the protection process. Themes include how care is provided to children, their agency and potential, recent attempts to reform the Irish reception system and any impact these reforms have had on young people and projects lead by young people that aim to amplify their voice and experiences.

Conference programme

Opening Address: Teresa Blake, Senior Counsel & Member of Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

Panel One: Unaccompanied Refugee Children | Chair: Dr Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, UCD

Professor Ravi Kohli, University of Bedfordshire

Dr Ala Sirriyeh, Keele University

Panel Two: Accompanied Refugee Children | Chair: Tanya Ward, CEO, Children’s Rights Alliance

Dr. Ciara Smyth, NUI Galway

Dr. Deirdre Horgan, University College Cork

Aoife Dare, Irish Refugee Council and young people from the European Youth Migration Forum

Closing Remarks: Nick Henderson, CEO, Irish Refugee Council