'It is a secret you have to keep' - 24-year-old's life on hold because of undocumented status

'It is a secret you have to keep' - 24-year-old's life on hold because of undocumented status

Rashmi suffers from a "constant burning unease" because she is an undocumented young person.

“It is a secret you have to keep. It is a cloud hanging over you. I don't know whether I am going to be removed from my home; from my friends; from everything that I know at any moment.

“Dublin has been my home for the past 16 years. I grew up here. My life is here,” said Rashmi, who is 24 years old and came to Ireland when she was eight.

Rashmi has not been able to further her education since she completed her Leaving Certificate examination in 2013.

Her life is on hold because of her status. Her mother, also undocumented and originally from Sri Lanka, works in the healthcare sector.

I see my friends going to college; getting jobs and being able to make a contribution to society. I want to do the same. I should be able to do the same but I can't.

“I recently finished a post Leaving Certificate course in legal studies and received distinctions throughout.

“I applied through the Central Applications Office as a mature student to study law at Dublin City University and University College Dublin and just this past week I have been offered places at both.

“But they are out of reach to me because of my status."

Rashmi said she had done everything she could do to regularise her status and wanted to know what more she could do.

A referendum held in 2004 removed the automatic right to citizenship for all children born in the Republic of Ireland.

However, in the United States, children of illegal immigrants are automatically entitled to citizenship if they are born there.

Rashmi attended the launch by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland of 108 parents of undocumented children in Ireland.

More than two-thirds (68%) of the 185 children whose parents completed the survey were born in Ireland.

Of those born outside of Ireland, 78% have lived in the country for five years. Some have been living in Ireland for more than 16 years.

Director of MRCI, Edel McGinley, said they had been working with undocumented families for 18 years.

A third of the people who access our services on a daily basis are undocumented and what we are seeing now is a big cohort of second-generation children and young people growing up here – a very untenable situation.

It is reckoned that there were between 2,000 to 3,000 undocumented children and young people in Ireland.

Chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance Tanya Ward said the plight of the children and young people has not gone unnoticed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In 2016 the committee called on Ireland to find some way to regularise young people who were growing up in the country.

Ms Ward urged Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to find some way to regularise Rashmi's situation and that of thousands more like her so they could get on with living the full lives that they deserve.

Ms McGinley said they wanted the minister to provide a pathway to residency for the children and young people.

Rashmi is a member of a young people's group called Young Paperless and Powerful who have been campaigning to regularise their situation for four years.

“Being part of the campaign has made me let go of the fear a little bit and allowed me to speak out – that this is not right. It is not my fault that I am in this situation.”

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