"Responding to the Needs of Refugee Children and Young People"

Ireland has a long history of hosting refugee children, even if the numbers reaching Ireland have been small in comparison with other countries. In recent years, children and young people have been fleeing persecution and war in unprecedented numbers. Some of these children reach Ireland, either independently or through the relocation programmes from Calais and Greece. While refugee children, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, are often portrayed as vulnerable, their stories are also of fortitude, resilience and independence. This multi-disciplinary half day conference, held on World Refugee Day 2017, explored approaches to meeting the needs of children, both unaccompanied and accompanied, who are in the protection process. Themes included how care is provided to children, their agency and potential, recent attempts to reform the Irish reception system and any impact these reforms have on young people. The conference also included a presentation based on a project led by young people that aims to amplify their voice and experiences.

This conference, brought to you by UCD School of Social Policy & Social Work and Irish Refugee Council,  took place in Belfield on the 20th of June. The opening address was given by Teresa Blake, Senior Counsel and member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission who spoke about her recent experiences of working with refugee children on the island of Lesbos in Greece. This was followed by panel one, chaired by Dr. Muireann Ní Raghallaigh (Assistant Professor of Social Work, UCD), which looked at unaccompanied refugee children and included presentations from Professor Ravi Kohli of the University of Befordshire and Dr Ala Sirriyeh of Keele University. Panel two, chaired by Tanya Ward of the Children’s Rights Alliance, focussd on accompanied children. It began with a presentation by young people from the European Youth in Migration Forum and their youth worker from the Irish Refugee Council, Aoife Dare. The young people spoke about their consultations with other young people living in the direct provision system and highlighted the many challenges faced by these young people and the importance of including their voices and opinions in discussions regarding issues that impact on them. This was followed by presentations from Dr. Deirdre Horgan of University College Cork and Dr. Ciara Smyth of NUIG and by a closing address by Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council.

The conference was attended by social workers, social care workers, legal practitioners, guardian ad litems, members of NGOs and advocacy groups, researchers and academics from all across the island of Ireland. It received media coverage from Radio na Gaeltachta, Today FM, Phoenix fm and the Irish Times.

Media release regarding the conference: http://www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie/news/world-refugee-day-2017-university-college-dublin-and-irish-refugee-council-conference-addresses-the-needs-of-refugee-children-and-young-people/5715

Presentations from the conference are available at the following link: http://www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie/news/speaker-presentations-responding-to-the-needs-of-refugee-children-and-young-people/5747


Young people from the Irish refugee Council's European Youth Migration Forum

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council

Dr. Ala Sirriyeh (Keele Univeristy), Professor Ravi Kohli (University of Bedfordshire) and Teresa Blake Senior Counsel and member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission