A New Study on Immigrant Adolescents’ Experience of Ireland Launched

A new report on immigrant teenagers’ experience of Ireland by Trinity College Dublin researchers was presented on  February 2nd last to the Minister of State for Integration, John Curran.  The event took place in Presentation College, Warrenmount in the Liberties, Dublin with school pupils who took part in the study in attendance, together with their parents and teachers.

Commenting on the significance of the study that involved 169 migrant young people, aged 15-18 years of age across the country, TCD’s Head of the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Professor Robbie Gilligan, who led the research said: “The objective was to give migrant young people an opportunity to talk about the issues that were important to them. This research aims to contribute to public understanding of the experiences of young migrants in Ireland and help identify key issues in promoting the integration and well being of migrant youth in Ireland.”

“The primary aim of this research,” continued TCD researcher, Dr Philip Curry, “is to document and explore the experience of a range of young people who have migrated to Ireland. The experience of teenagers is particularly important for understanding integration issues.  Compared to either younger children or parents, teenagers will have greater levels of contact with Irish society, especially contact of an open and unstructured kind.”

(L-R) Dr Philip Curry, Prof Patrick Prendergast, Vice-Provost / Chief Academic Officer of TCD, Ms Jo Ahern, CEO of Integrating Ireland, Minister John Curran and Professor Robbie Gilligan, Head of School of Social Work and Social Policy.

The study titled, In the Front Line of Integration: Young people managing migration to Ireland was carried out by the Trinity Immigration Initiative (TII) and was a joint project between, the TII’s Children, Youth and Community Relations Research Programme and the organisation, Integrating Ireland.

The findings include:

Educational Values:

The participants generally placed a high value on education. They were highly motivated and ambitious.  Typically they had strong support from their families for their studies.  Many of the participants came from cultures that greatly valued deference to authority at home, in school or elsewhere.

Schools in Ireland

Many participants came from educational systems that were very different from the one they encountered in Ireland. They were often used to traditional models of learning that place a high value on discipline and authority.


Friendships with local Irish young people were valued. However experiences were mixed with some finding it easy to make friends locally, others finding it difficult and others not particularly wanting it. Barriers to friendships with local Irish young people included perceived differences in cultural background, language and accent, differences in educational and life experience, racism and differences in attitude towards education, authority, religion and alcohol.


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.

Cultural Heritage

The ability of young people to hold on to their cultural heritage when they migrate is thought to have significant implications for their mental well being. Through their own efforts and the efforts of their family and community, the young people in this study seemed to be generally successful in maintaining their heritage cultures. Yet they were also open to influences from Irish society.


Most migrant young people came to share the family mission of wishing to improve the family’s circumstances. They were sympathetic to the challenges their parents face in migrating.  Young migrants were often asked to translate and interpret for their families, a role which they sometimes found very burdensome.

Age of Arrival:

Young people who migrated to Ireland at an older age tended to face a number of challenges which those who have arrived earlier do not. They tended to have more difficulty learning the language and accent, have parents who were less comfortable in Irish society and were, therefore, more controlling, and have fewer friends as a result of missing out on the more stable and friendly experience of primary school.

On behalf of Integrating Ireland,  Ms Jo Ahern said that this research report would provide a much-needed resource for policy and decisions makers in government and for all those who work with immigrant youth and are in fields associated with immigrant youth in Ireland. “It is very significant research and contributes strongly to our recently published guide, At Home in Ireland: An Induction Guide for Immigrant Youth and Parents,” concluded, Ms Ahern, who is CEO of Integration and Social Inclusion Centre of Ireland (ISICI) trading as Integrating Ireland.

Extracts from the young people:

“Yeah, she surprised us because she just woke up early in the morning on Sunday morning and she was like, she had packed our boxes and everything and ‘get up we are going to meet your dad’… I thought she was messing, and we got in a taxi. All of a sudden I saw people waving, I was like, yeah I’m coming back. I was at the airport and I was like, are you serious? She was.” – Male, Sub-Saharan Africa

“But here I have to be more independent because my parents are more constricted in their work and you have to stand up on your own.” – Female, Sub-Saharan Africa

“A guy actually got out of his car and said “nigger” and got back into the car and ran away.” -Male, Sub-Saharan Africa

“[Young people born in Ireland…] ask permission, but it’s like, hey mom, I’m going out, se you!” –  Female, South Asia

-It’s [cultural heritage] very important.

-Yeah so you can pass it onto your children.

-It is part of who you are.

-It’s your identity. ? Participants from various countries

Notes to Editor:

About the Trinity Immigration Initiative (TII):

The Trinity Immigration Initiative (TII) represents a significant contribution to the wider commitment by TCD to work through strategies in research, teaching and contribution to society, to enable the university to play an influential role in developing a more sustainable, inclusive, multicultural society for Ireland’s future.

TII Research Programme on Diversity, Integration and Policy:

The first key initiative in the TII is a major Research Programme on Diversity, Integration and Policy.  This programme is designed to stimulate a quantum leap in research activity in relation to immigration, helping to generate evidence relevant to local and national policy and contributing to international debates and the development of international practice.   The programme is a unique and multidisciplinary suite of six interlocking projects which will:

The six interlocking projects are:

1. Children, Youth and Community Relations;

2. English Language Support Programme;

3. Migrant Careers and Aspirations;

4. Migrant Networks – Facilitating Migrant Integration;

5. National Policy Impacts;

6. Parallel Societies or Overlapping Identities.

Currently, there are 15 PhD students and 6 postdoctoral researchers working on the TII programme.