Undocumented Galway student appeals for help to get university place

Sara Morais
By Steve Neville

A Leaving Cert student from Galway has appealed for help with her legal status so she can attend university.

Sara Morais, who was born in Brazil and attends Gort Community School, has been living in the Galway town since 2006.

Despite attending primary and secondary school there, she discovered that she would not be eligible to go to university because she is undocumented.

Speaking on Adhmhaidin on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, the 19-year-old pleaded for help.

“My family and I came to Ireland in 2006 ... My parents didn’t want to leave [Brazil], but they knew we could have a good life here ... My parents have been working here and paying tax for 12 years, just like everyone else," Sara said.

"They do everything right and legally, but we still have no legal status ... I need answers. I want to know what we can do to change our situation."

Sara revealed that as well as the pressure of the Leaving Cert, she is under additional pressure at home.

"My mother is sick at the moment," she explained.

She had a big operation at the beginning of the school year, and we found out that she has cancer. Sometimes, I have to miss school because I have to go to the doctor with her because she only has a little English.

"I have to be with her to translate... so I’m under pressure with everything this year."

Olivia Fahy, Sara's Irish teacher, also spoke to RTÉRnaG and said that there are others in a similar position.

"At the moment, there are eight pupils in this situation (like Sara's) in Leaving Cert year, and after the Leaving Cert they won’t have a chance to go any further with their education and it’s a great pity.

"As teachers here, we’re trying to highlight this problem. We want to find out what we can do for the pupils."

Ms Fahy told the radio stations that it was unclear what the problem was with obtaining legal status.

"We’re not sure what the problem is, that’s why we’re here this morning. We want to find out what we can do," said Ms Fahy.

"Sara attended primary and secondary school and now there’s a barrier in front of her.

"We don’t think it makes any sense that she can’t get a place on a [third level] course here, because without a doubt she’d be more valuable to the community with a qualification than without."

"Sara is a very diligent student and this isn’t her fault, and she’s appealing ... if anybody can give her some answers she’d be very happy to listen to them and to follow their advice to help her case."

Responding to the interview on Twitter, the Immigrant Council of Ireland said: "We need a fairer system for young people who've spent most of their childhood in Ireland to access 3rd level.

"It makes sense for Irish society as well as the young people ."

The Department of Justice has been asked for comment.

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