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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Irish 'baby law' triggers protest
By Cindi John
BBC News Online community affairs reporter

Babies at civil rights rally
Civil rights groups protested about the citizenship law change
Campaigners in Dublin are marching to parliament to protest against automatic citizenship being withdrawn from babies born in Ireland.

It follows claims that asylum seekers were abusing the law by having children in Ireland to get residency rights.

Civil rights groups say the removal of residency rights means thousands of foreign parents face deportation.

However, the Irish government says all residency applications are decided on merit.

Deportations

In a referendum held in June, Irish voters overwhelmingly opted to abolish the link between birth and automatic citizenship.

A bill now going through the Irish parliament stipulates children born in Ireland will only get automatic citizenship if at least one of their parents has lived in Ireland or the UK for at three of the preceding four years.

They've effectively had a law retrospectively applied which is against the principles of justice
Aisling Reidy,
Irish Council of Civil Liberties
And a ruling by the Supreme Court last year removed the government's obligation to consider Irish-born children as a special factor when considering residency applications.

The government promised to consider all residency applications being made on the grounds of Irish-born children already being processed on their individual merits.

However, since the Supreme Court ruling there have been a number of high-profile deportations of asylum seekers, some of whom had Irish children.

Mark Grehan, of Residents Against Racism, which organised Wednesday's march said they doubted cases were being judged on merit.

"From all the cases we've had from people coming to us who've been issued with deportation orders it doesn't seem there is any criteria that the Department of Justice seems to be following.

"The Department of Justice can still allow people to stay - it's just they are choosing to deport everybody," he told BBC News Online.

'Limbo situation'

Among the marchers to the Irish Parliament on Wednesday will be Ion Anghel, from Romania, a Dublin resident for the past five years.

He said he had applied for a residency application after the birth of his first child three years ago, but his application had not yet been processed.

Now that he could no longer cite his child as grounds for residency, he and his family now feared imminent deportation, Mr Anghel said.

"If you want to change a policy you should make it applicable from then on. I think it's unfair to give a penalty to people who've done nothing wrong."

That's a view supported by the director of the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, Aisling Reidy.

She says cases like Mr Anghel's are commonplace.

"These are people who had children here before the court decision, followed all the rules set down by the Department of Justice themselves and now because of the department's inaction are being put in a limbo situation.

"They've effectively had a law retrospectively applied which is against the principles of justice," she said.




SEE ALSO:
Ireland votes to end birth right
13 Jun 04  |  Europe
Irish baby laws attract Africans
16 Oct 03  |  Europe


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