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STUDENTS FROM outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who begin a third-level course in the Republic this autumn will be denied registration clearance by immigration authorities unless they can confirm they are not accompanied by children, according to rules published by the Department of Justice.
This comes amid a tightening of regulations on student visa-holders from outside the EEA, which comprises the European Union's 27 member states as well as Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.
In cases where the child has been attending a State school here for at least some of the last school year, however, that child will be allowed remain in education until the completion of the parent's course.
The publication of these rules follows a controversy last December when gardaí threatened to deport an American university student unless she removed her son from a Galway national school. The threat was withdrawn after the case was widely publicised.
It is understood that situation arose after a decision was taken within the Department of Justice to begin a crackdown on student visa-holders who enrolled their children in State schools.
The new policy hinged on an interpretation of an existing stipulation that foreign students are expected to be self-sufficient during their stay in Ireland and was driven by a belief that some foreign students are coming to Ireland to have their children educated, Government sources said at the time.
It was also motivated by a desire to avoid a repeat of the crisis over a shortage of school places in north Dublin last September.
According to the new rules, published on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service last week, first-time non- EEA students presenting for registration with the Garda National Immigration Bureau this autumn "will be asked to confirm that they are neither accompanied by children, nor do they intend to have their children join them later on".
If they are unable to do so, they will not be registered unless the placement of the child in education has been approved in writing by either the Department of Justice or Education.
While a temporary exemption is being granted to students whose children were already attending a State school in 2007-2008, this will only apply provided the parent's course ends before July 2010.
"Where the parent's course ends in the middle of a school year, the parent's registration cannot be extended solely for the purpose of allowing the child to finish the year," the notice states.
The newly published rules do not specify whether non-EEA students are allowed to be accompanied here by children who are not of school-going age.
Commenting on the rules, Joe O'Brien, policy officer at Crosscare Migrant Project, said the rules were based on the false assumption that foreign students were not contributing to the economy.
"The majority of them are working . . . and a lot of non- EEA students are funding universities with their fees," he said.
"That doesn't seem to have been taken into account when they say: 'you're draining State resources, your children aren't allowed go to school'."
In a further tightening of rules for non-EEA students, the Government is finalising plans for a new work permit scheme that will require students to provide the Garda with details of their position and employer. They will then be allowed work for that employer for up to 20 hours a week during term and 40 hours a week over holidays.
"The rights that students have are being reduced and reduced," Mr O'Brien said.
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