20 November 2019—On UN Universal Children’s Day, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and Irish Refugee Council are proud to announce a new partnership to help unaccompanied children who have been granted refugee status in Ireland reunite with their families in Ireland. Under Irish law, children are entitled to family reunification, but state-provided legal aid in Ireland does not extend to these matters. Without legal help, the application process is extremely difficult to navigate and children risk missing the limited time window to reunite with their families in safety.
The majority of children who have made their way to Ireland have left their families in countries impacted by conflict, including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Albania and Ethiopia. Each child’s story and personal circumstances is different. Many travelled overland by foot, crossing borders, deserts and seas in extremely perilous circumstances. Some left their families behind to avoid forced conscription to armies or to avoid persecution because of their religion or ethnicity. Others were trafficked to Europe.
While eligible to apply for close family members to join them in Ireland, children are most often unable to apply without assistance because they do not know how to do so. Through this collaboration, the Independent Law Centres of the Immigrant Council and the Irish Refugee Council will ensure that unaccompanied children referred by their social workers and aftercare workers are matched with pro-bono legal help.
Building on the well-established and successful KIND model used in the United States for more than a decade, the Immigrant Council and Irish Refugee Council will work with the Public Interest Law Alliance to train and mentor private sector pro bono lawyers working in law firms and corporate legal departments in Ireland. The training and mentorship will ensure lawyers can successfully represent unaccompanied children in their family reunification applications. The project will also train social care professionals to support refugee children and young people through the process.
“Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is thrilled to join with the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Irish Refugee Council to help children in Ireland reunite with family they left behind in very difficult circumstances,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “The importance of these children reuniting with family members cannot be underestimated. Family can help these kids deal with the trauma of their experiences so they can move more easily towards a brighter future.”
Catherine Cosgrave, Managing Solicitor, Immigrant Council of Ireland, said, “The opportunity to build on and increase our work with unaccompanied children is extremely welcome and very timely. We know the best way to support children to integrate is with the help and support of their families, but there are many challenges to reunification. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and the Irish Refugee Council on this crucially important project.”
Katie Mannion, Managing Solicitor, Irish Refugee Council, said, “The Irish Refugee Council is grateful to KIND for the support and expertise to further develop the pro bono model of legal representation in Ireland to benefit unaccompanied children. We are excited to expand our collaboration with A&L Goodbody, to whom we have referred asylum cases since 2013, and to now also work with Arthur Cox, Microsoft and LinkedIn alongside our colleagues in the Immigrant Council of Ireland. We think this is an enormously positive development for children.”
For more information, please contact: Pippa Woolnough, Communications and Advocacy Manager, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Pippa@immigrantcouncil.ie; 085 8640682
Note to Editor: Ireland does not participate in the EU Family Reunification Directive 2003/86/EC. Refugee family reunification entitlements are provided for in Ireland by section 56-58 of the International Protection Act 2015.