Partial victory for Irish schoolboy Eric Zhi with ‘no imminent threat of deportation’ to China
- Dublin-born Eric Zhi Ying Xue, 9, was facing deportation with his mother, who arrived illegally in Ireland from Fujian province in 2006
An Irish-born schoolboy who is facing deportation to China has won a partial victory in his battle to stay in the land of his birth.
Nine-year-old Eric Zhi Ying Xue – who has been described as being “as Irish as a glass of Guinness” – was told there was “no imminent threat of deportation” as justice officials in Ireland carried out a review of his case and that of his mother, Leena Mei Mei Xue, who arrived in Ireland illegally 12 years ago.
The boy’s primary school principal, Maeve Tierney, who spearheaded a vociferous campaign to block the forced return, described the move as “an important first step”.
News of the partial reprieve came from Simon Harris, a member of parliament for the constituency of Wicklow, where Eric lives.
Harris, who is also the Irish government’s health minister, told Dublin media this week that he had made representations to the Department of Justice and Equality on behalf of Eric and his mother, who arrived in the country from Fujian province in 2006.
“I’ve just got some good news, very recently from the Department of Justice, which I’ve conveyed to Eric’s family, that there is no imminent threat of deportation,” Harris said.
“That’s all I ever called for. All Eric’s family ever asked for was an opportunity for a humanitarian review of the case to take place.
“The idea that a nine-year-old boy who is as much from Wicklow as I am, as much from Ireland as I am, would be told that he is ‘going back’ to China – a country he has never been to – was simply ludicrous.”
Tierney said in an interview with the Post: “As a politician who has taken a certain risk in supporting this case, Simon Harris has to be seen to have achieved something. There’s a very lengthy process of reviewing the case with no guarantee of success; nonetheless, it’s an important first step.”
She also expressed surprise the boy’s case has sparked so much interest in Hong Kong and China.
“I have seen the initial article you published and it’s interesting to learn that it’s had such a response. I would never have thought that a case like this on the [other] side of the world would generate any real interest, so I’d love to know what is the general consensus there on this.”
Eric is a pupil in the fourth class at St Cronan’s Boys’ National School in Bray, County Wicklow, and, although born in Ireland, is not a citizen.
Due to its sizeable Chinese population, the town of Bray has earned the nickname “Bray-jing”.
A petition signed by more than 50,000 people was started by St Cronan’s pupils last month asking Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to revoke the deportation order and allow the Dublin-born boy to stay in Ireland.
Several previous attempts by Eric’s mother to regularise her residency failed and a deportation order was served against her in 2015. A last appeal was rejected in June.
Eric was not entitled to Irish citizenship because of a 2004 change in the law which ended the automatic right of babies born in the country to claim citizenship unless one of the parents was a citizen.
At that time, the government said the law had to be tightened to stop women travelling to Ireland to exploit a legal loophole which entitled their Irish-born children to a European Union passport.