The Irish Refugee Council has criticized newly placed restrictions on asylum seekers hoping to gain access to third-level education in Ireland, stating that there has been an increase in the number of asylum seeker-students who are forced to turn down offers from colleges as these new restrictions have made it incredibly difficult for students to access affordable and accessible third-level education.
Before 2015, asylum seekers who had been granted leave to stay in Ireland were eligible to receive Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grants to help them pay for their education. SUSI is Ireland’s leading authority for awarding grants to those seeking grants for further and higher education.
In 2015, new legislation was introduced that stated that asylum seekers who had been granted leave were no longer eligible to receive any funding from SUSI. The Department of Education also confirmed that they no longer recognize asylum seekers who have been granted leave as an eligible category for any kind of SUSI grant.
Asylum seekers who have applied for leave but have yet to have been granted leave quality for State financial support, albeit through a separate mechanism. Individuals with successful applications are unable to receiving any financial aid from the State for their third level education.
Charlotte Byrne, Education Officer with the Irish Refugee Council, outlined why this denial of education severely limits asylum seekers: “If they can’t get an education, it’s much harder for them to get a job and contribute.”
This exclusion from the SUSI system forces asylum seeker students to either try and financially support themselves through school or to turn down offers of higher education and try and get a job without a college degree.
The Irish Refugee Council believes that the law amounts to unfair restrictions on prospective third-level students, and are bringing their criticism to the public eye in order to try and help asylum seekers who have already been granted leave or will be granted leave in the near future.