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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
Irish baby laws attract Africans
Month-old twins born to a Nigerian mother in Ireland
Parents hope their children can have Irish citizenship

A doctor in Ireland says African women who travel to Dublin to give birth are putting their health at risk in order to give their babies Irish citizenship.

Declan Keane, head doctor at Dublin's National Maternity Hospital, says there have been a number of cases of women travelling while actually in labour.

Ireland is the only European Union country that grants automatic citizenship to babies born within its borders.

It has experienced a massive rise in the number of children born to foreign nationals in recent years.

In 1999, only 2% of babies were born to non-nationals. This year the figure will be almost 20%.

"Most of these women, 70%, are coming from sub-Saharan Africa and the majority of those from Nigeria," Dr Keane told Ireland's RTE radio.

He said a number of women were travelling while actually in labour and there was little time for screening and pre-natal care.

"There is a major disaster waiting there to happen," he said.

Court ruling

The problem was being experienced at all three of Dublin's maternity hospitals, he added.

Last year more than 4,000 non-EU immigrants - 3,000 of them asylum seekers - were granted residency because they were parents of babies born in Ireland.

In January, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that parents and siblings of such children do not automatically qualify for Irish citizenship.

But Dr Keane says mothers are still making the journey in the hope that their child will have the option of returning to live in Ireland when they are older.

"The Supreme Court judgement has done nothing to stop them coming in," he said.


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