The leader of the Seanad, Mary O'Rourke, has called on the Minister for Justice to reunite two Nigerian mothers who were deported from Ireland with their children who were left behind.

The children have been in hiding in Athlone, Co Westmeath, for over a month. Senator O'Rourke said the mother of one of the children rang from Nigeria during the last few days and was heartbroken about the break-up with her family.

Mrs O'Rourke, who was speaking at a street protest in Athlone attended by over 500 people this afternoon, said she had already raised the issue with Michael McDowell.

Socialist TD Joe Higgins told the protest it would have to be intense and determined if Mr McDowell was to change his mind on the issue but this could be achieved.

Mr Higgins said it was an incredible indictment of the political establishment and sections of the business establishment that migrants and immigrants into the country are now seen either as a threat to be deported and vulnerable workers to be exploited.