In the frontline of Integration- experience of young migrants in Ireland

A ground-breaking study by researchers from Trinity College Dublin shines a light on the experience of young immigrants in Ireland.Between 2002 and 2006, the number of non-Irish national children in the state increasedby 57.6%.  By 2006, there were 62,800 non-Irish national children (under 18s) resident in the State, representing 6.1% of the total child population.  Of this group, 10,300 were in the 15 to 17 age group.This study ‘In the frontline of integration’ aimed to find out what life is like for young people aged 15 to 18 who have migrated to Ireland.  169 migrant young people from sites purposefully selected across the country took part in open-ended focus group discussions.The full report is available to download from in IrelandMany participants came from educational systems that placed a high value on traditional models of learning, discipline and authority. The more relaxed atmosphere they perceived in Irish schools surprised them.Many participants felt that school was ‘easier’ in Ireland than in their country of origin. This perception cannot be definitively explained in the context of this research but it may be related to different educational styles in Ireland and their country of origin (which on the other hand some participants noted and embraced). It may also be due to young migrants finding themselves in schools and classes where norms of achievement were different to those in schools they had attended previously.The system of streaming classes and examinations in Ireland was a source of frustration to some young migrants who were unfamiliar with such a system.  Some also believed that they had been put into streams below their ability level.RacismRacism emerged spontaneously as an issue in almost all of the focus groups. Many participants talked about how they encountered racism on the street from strangers (including adults), peers in school, at work and in the search for work.From classmates there were some overtly racist remarks but more commonly misunderstandings and misrepresentations which caused annoyance and frustration.  The reactions of some school teachers to racism were raised. In some cases, young people thought that some teachers may misunderstand or fail to deal with racism. Occasionally teachers could create awkward situations through ill-judged attempts to help.Other aspects of the research look at the experience of young people and cultural heritage, part-time work, friendships, leisure time, family and more.Impressions of the young peopleOn movingSince it was called an island I actually visualised that it would be nice and sunny. Now it’s called an island. That was obviously a mistake.– P25, Male, Unassigned, Group 3 Learning a different language and especially if you’re really young. You don’t know what’s going on. You leave all your friends behind and change schools; it’s a completely different environment like. Different people like, everybody you know. And you just get used to like a totally completely different lifestyle than you did. – P157, Female, Europe You would have people who would go off to Europe for say two or three years and they would come back with all these stories of how we were living the life there and blah, blah, (…) but that’s what people are told and they leave out the hard work, they don’t mention anything about people have to work hard, having to go through troubles. – P77, Male, Sub-Saharan AfricaOn teachers …They’re always trying to put their own people first and put them in the class before us, and which is not really nice, because if they do that to them they won’t like it. It’s like first of all I think they should think before they do things because like if they’re in our shoes they wouldn’t really like it or accept that. – P16, Female, Sub-Saharan Africa, On integration intitiativesA number of participants talked energetically about school multi-cultural initiatives, sometimes with a sense of being allowed to ‘put the record straight’: We got to talk about our country and our flag. It was actually really good because we got to express ourselves and I think the people that were there knew a bit more about us, they were not all…yeah we’re not all black bastards and all that.– Female, Sub-Saharan AfricaOn racism and discriminationBecause sometimes when you report stuff they don’t take it that serious, but it’s actually serious to you, and it means a lot. – P21, Female, Sub-Saharan AfricaThe main problem would be racism, that’s the main problem. Because people…we always get judged by our colour. They just see you being black, they think you’re stupid, they think you’re dumb as hell. And when you happen to be smart…they pick on you for anything really. If you’re smart they’ll pick on you, if you’re quiet they’ll pick on you, if you’re mad or really sound, they’ll pick on you. You won’t even do anything and they’ll just pick on you anyway. Just pick on her because she’s black – just have a laugh, just pick on her. P66, Female, Sub-Saharan Africa,A guy actually got out of his car and said “nigger” and got back into the car and ran away. He was just afraid.– P63, Male, Sub-Saharan Africa, My mum finished university in Armenia, she spent a lot of time studying, and right now she works in a take away, and I’m sure that the person next to her who probably dropped out in third year gets paid more than her.– P25, Male, Europe


This entry was posted in News/ Comment. Bookmark the permalink.