Irish children `deported' from Ireland

Parents of Irish-born children, who are facing deportation, are being told to surrender their children's Irish passports before being put out of the 26 Counties, it has emerged.

Meanwhile, he largest single deportation of failed Nigerian asylum-seekers is underway today, as between 40 and 50 Nigerians are to be flown to Lagos on a specially chartered aircraft.

The group included men, women and four children - including two babies - on a flight due to leave Dublin airport at midnight. One of the children was born in Britain.

It follows the deportation of 70 Moldovans and Romanians on a specially chartered plane last week and 65 to those countries in February.

Such deportations, on specially chartered flights, take place in the middle of the night to attract the least possible publicity.

Peter O'Mahony, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, said his office had sought clarification about the apparently new practice of demanding passports back.

The demand ``is a huge violation of Irish citizens' constitutional rights,'' the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said.

Tanya Ward of the ICCL said the only circumstances in which the Department of Justice or the gardai may demand a passport was if the holder had committed or was suspected of committing a serious offence.

``The only reason the passports are being demanded here is to facilitate the child's removal from the State.''

She said Irish children were effectively being deported.

An estimated 20 children born in Ireland have been deported with their parents since the middle of last year.

A spokesman for the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, insisted the children's passports were not being confiscated. ``Those passports are given back. The request that they be handed over is so travel documents can be processed.''

He said the parents ``technically'' had the right to refuse to surrender their children's passports.

``Technically they have the right to leave the children here.''


Meanwhile, Dublin's Minister for Justice has detailed his plans to restrict the citizenship rights of babies born in Ireland to non-nationals.

Mr McDowell yesterday published the legislation which would bar babies born in Ireland from entitlement to citizenship unless at least one parent has lived in Ireland for at least three of the previous four years.

A referendum to change the Constitution which the government had planned for June 11th, the same day as the local and European elections.

Mr McDowell yesterday said it was necessary ``to protect the integrity of the Irish citizenship law''. Last month he claimed ``citizenship tourists'' were causing a crisis in maternity hospitals.

The minister said that if the current position continued, there would be ``a new and somewhat unlikely diaspora'' conferring citizenship not only on themselves, but on their descendants. ``I don't think it's reasonable to leave that in place,'' he said.

The Dublin government recalled the Dail on April 21st, a week early, from its Easter break to debate the issue.

The format chosen by the Government would ensure there could be no questioning of Ministers, no Order of Business session and no prospect of calling a vote.

It is clear the issue has been prompted into the local and European election campaigns for right-wing political advantage.

Labour and the Green Party said they would consider not turning up for the first two days of the Dail debate in protest.

Mr Dan Boyle, of the Green Party, said last night they were considering the move as much in anger at the attempt to railroad the Bill through the Dail without a proper debate as at the content of the Bill.

The Government proposal, announced yesterday, calls for an addition to Article 9 of the Constitution. This is to modify the commitment in Article 2, inserted by referendum as part of the Good Friday Agreement, that all children born on the island of Ireland are entitled to Irish citizenship.

The proposed new section states that babies born in Ireland who do not have at least one parent who is an Irish citizen are not entitled to Irish citizenship or nationality, unless provided for by law.

If this is passed the Government will propose legislation stating that a person born on the island is not entitled to citizenship unless a parent has been resident in Ireland for three of the previous four years. Mr McDowell published this legislation yesterday.

If the referendum is passed Article 9 of the constitution would include the follows:

1* Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, a person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and its seas, who does not have, at the time of his or her birth, at least one parent who is an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen is not entitled to Irish citizenship or nationality, unless provided for by law.

2* This section shall not apply to persons born before the date of the enactment of this section.

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