An Irish-born baby was left behind as the baby’s mother was one of 25 Nigerians deported on a chartered aircraft in a mass late-night expulsion of asylum-seekers.
It is understood the baby girl is less than a year old and her whereabouts are unknown, according to the Garda police. The Garda National Immigration Bureau said it is looking for the child, who remains an Irish citizen with full national rights.
Three other infants, also Irish passport holders, were on board the Lagos-bound plan. The mother separated from her child was extremely upset, according to one of the deportees.
“She had her child with her, who was about nine months old, I think,” said Mr Jide Onikoyi, speaking on his arrival in Nigeria. “There was some problem because she got separated from her baby... the woman was fighting with them and didn’t want to go. She was crying a lot on the flight.”
Aisling Reidy, director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, said: “In light of the recent constitutional amendment, the Minister has no public interest argument to justify the deportation of these children. This has now become simply a senseless and inhumane policy inflicted on families who had lawfully applied for residency as far back as 2001.
“There appears to be total abandonment of any pretence to be upholding the Constitutional rights of the children,” she added.
The Coalition Against the Deportation of Irish Children has condemned the deportations. Its spokeswoman, Ms Ronit Lentin, expressed the group’s concern that a woman was deported without her child. “This is an indefensible policy which must be halted immediately,” she said.
The Green Party spokesman on justice, Mr Ciaran Cuffe TD, has called on the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, to clarify whether children born before the 2003 Supreme Court judgment were among the three on the flight to Nigeria.
He called on him to allow the non-national parents of Irish children born before the Supreme Court decision to be allowed to remain. “This is a limited group of families and we believe it is in their best interest to allow them to stay.”
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus O Snodaigh, described the Government’s policy as constituting “a grave violation of the constitutional rights of citizens and the rights ofchildren.”
Deputy O Snodaigh said, “The children in question are a legitimate part of the Irish nation. They are full citizens with equal rights. It is not acceptable that, through dependency on their parents, they should be forced to leave the country. Neither is it acceptable that they be deprived of the care and company of their parents if it is in their best interests to remain in Ireland.
“These expulsions are offensive to natural justice and cannot be allowed to continue. We must now each do our part to stand up for the rights of our fellow citizens, and to ensure that all children of this nation are cherished equally.”