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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 12:01 GMT
Mother in court battle
A Chinese woman moved to Northern Ireland to have her baby in order to win UK residency rights, a European court has been told.

Mrs Man Levette Chen chose to have her child in Belfast, knowing that she would be guaranteed Irish nationality, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg was told on Tuesday.

A government lawyer claimed that she intended to take her Irish daughter to live in the United Kingdom under EU rules which allow nationals of one state to live in another.

However, the UK authorities challenged mother and daughters' right to live in the UK, despite her daughter's Irish nationality.

Mrs Chen and her daughter, Catherine, live in Cardiff pending the outcome of the European court case.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday, Mrs Chen defended her decision to give birth to her child in Northern Ireland.

I did not realise I would end up with such publicity, I feel we should be treated equally in Europe
Man Levette Chen
"I was advised to come to Belfast by the legal solicitor," she said.

"I was pregnant with my second child and China has a one-child policy. I had breached that. I could not stay in China."

Mrs Chen said that as long as her daughter had another country's citizenship, mother and daughter would be immune to punishment in China.

However she added that she felt "bad" at the opposition being posed in the United Kingdom.

"I feel bad because I did not realise I would end up with such publicity," Mrs Chen said.

The UK government refused residency permits to mother and daughter, arguing that, as Catherine was just eight months old at the time, she could not exercise EU rights.

The Chens are fighting the case at an immigration tribunal appeal which passed the case to the European Court.

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