Asylum seekers to get same university entitlements as Irish students.

Asylum seekers who have been in the Irish education system for five years or more will have the same entitlements as Irish students under new government proposals.

Many asylum-seeking students have not been able to progress to third level education because they are treated as international students and are subjected to paying large fees under this category.

Speaking at the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI), Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said the high fees that asylum seekers are expected to pay for third level education is effectively excluding them from a “future they have worked hard to achieve”.

Minister O’Sullivan said she is hopeful the new proposals will be introduced by September 2015.“I believe that such students should no longer have to pay any more to access third-level than their Irish friends do, and that they should have appropriate access to student supports.” She said.

A working group, set up in 2014 by the government to review the asylum system, is expected to suggest these measures when its deliberations are published.

There are over 4,000 asylum seekers living in direct provision accommodation centres across Ireland, just over 140 of whom are aged between 13-17 years old.

A new fast track system for asylum seekers who are currently residing in these provision accommodation centres is set to be announced by the government. The system would handle their cases within six months.

Other proposals aimed at reforming the asylum system are likely to be announced by the government in the coming weeks. Some of the measures proposed to tackle the problems with the asylum system are likely to include an increase in cash allowances for those who are living in direct provision.

Both moves are under consideration by an independent group set up by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister of State Aodhán Ó Riordáin. The group is expected to publish its report next month.

Paul Dwyer

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