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Young, Paperless, and Powerful

Undocumented young people use their creative talents to tell their stories

Written by Oisín McKenna and posted in news

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Young undocumented migrants in Ireland have been finding brave and creative ways to raise visibility of the issues they face. Using art, film and fun, Young, Paperless and Powerful are telling their stories of what it’s like to grow up without papers in Ireland.

What does it mean to be undocumented?

Being undocumented means you live in Ireland without having a right to residency or citizenship here. Despite not having a right to residency or citizenship here, many undocumented young people have grown up in Ireland and consider Ireland to be their home. However, although Ireland is their home, undocumented young people face risk of deportation, and are in a legal limbo when trying to get a job, access further education, or access essential public services such as health care and social welfare. This can have a massive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of undocumented people.

Who are Young, Paperless and Powerful?

Young, Paperless and Powerful is made up of undocumented young people aged 16 to 21. The young people involved use creative projects to tell their stories. So far, their projects have included painting a mural on Dame Lane in Dublin (pictured above) and making a short film.

Young, Paperless and Powerful from Migrant Rights Centre Ireland on Vimeo.

Right now, the young people are preparing a spoken word project that will be launched this summer. Recently, were lucky enough to hear two of the young people involved perform their powerful spoken word pieces at a Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) event. With the young people’s permission, we’ve published the text of the performances below:


As a 15 year old

Day and night

It’s always a struggle

It’s always a fight.

You’re doing something wrong if a 15 year old has lots of questions on her mind

As a 15 year old,

I want to be free and equal just like everyone else.

It’s so unfair

It’s like a nightmare....

It’s like a nightmare that I can’t even bare

But... yet why should you care

As a 15 year old, I shouldn’t be worrying about third level education while I’m still in secondary school

I should be thinking about my junior cert, not thinking about dropping out of school

Because I wouldn’t be able to go to third level education because I’m undocumented


I couldn’t go on a school trip to Scotland just because I don’t have my paper

My friend asked me why I was not going

And my response was that I’m too busy, I have a lot of better things to do

But deep inside I really wanted to go.

I constantly have to lie to my friends.

I’ve family back home that I can’t go see

I just want to lie down under that beautiful palm tree.


Racism is another thing I face as a young person

Does it matter what colour I am?

Does it matter where I’m from?

Why do I have to get discriminated about being a female or my sexual orientation?

I remember walking home from school and two girls were like ‘Go back to the zoo!’

How do you think I felt?

How would you feel if that was your son or daughter mistreated on the street

while you’re doing your worksheet?

Why should you care, you ask

As a young person I shouldn’t feel trapped

In a place where I call my own

In a place where I belong

In a place where I grew up

In a place where I call .......home.


My life is private unlike the school that I went to,

Where the kids had more rights than I did.


Bob is teasing, Martin’s decent,

The principle’s daughter always arrived in a car, Mercedes,


Two teachers in the hallway near the reception always conversating,

About making awesome babies, but me

It was my leaving that was keeping me from concentrating.


Filling out forms,

What’s a PPS ?, I don’t have one.

The only one I talked about having no status was my best friend Cameron.


We grew up best mates, playing chess games

But right now I feel like I’m the only one who got checkmate.


Coz he qualified for the college try

But me I was stuck knowing that one day after school

I’m gonna have to let all of my knowledge die.


It’ll take a magic trick,

To make me a pacifist,

Coz I feel like setting this world on fire,

Struck a match stick,

and tell everyone about the cause of this catalyst.


Young, Paperless and Powerful

Ready to stand up, making a difference,

Taking a chance to better the lives we’re living.


Young, Paperless and Powerful

Dream chasers, peacemakers,

The likes of young people who are going places,

Unafraid to look in the eyeballs,

Of this unjust situation we’re facing

If you think we’ve been hidden,

Then you’re highly mistaken.


Young, Paperless and Powerful

Planted the seed of hope in rough soil,

Encouraging other paperless and powerful young people,

To keep ploughing through


All we’re asking for is better legislation,

For the next generation.

Instead of separating us from the rest of the nation,

Just make us apart of it coz we need to reach our destination.


Our foundation revolves around,

A simple move called,

Step by step,

The future is in our hands,

And we’re going to build it.

Brick by brick.

Want to get involved?

If you’d like to get involved, young people or parents can confidentially contact Dearbhla from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) on or on 083 3517956

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Published August 11th, 2016
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