Plans to leave international surrogacy unregulated would amount to discrimination and allow children to be born in exploitative circumstances without their identity being protected, according to the Children's Rights Alliance.

It was addressing the Oireachtas Committee on International Surrogacy which has been set up to examine the issue and to propose new laws in the area.

The Government is progressing legislation to provide for assisted human reproduction which will outline conditions that surrogacy will be permitted in Ireland.

However, this does not include extending regulation to international surrogacy.

Chief Executive of the CRA Tanya Ward told the committee that this has been a difficult issue for many families, but has to be looked at from the perspective of the best interest of the child.

She said some of the issues arising from international surrogacy include statelessness, lack of projection of identity and "not having a legal relationship with the people who are caring and looking after you".

The CRA has welcomed the proposed creation of a surrogacy register containing information on a child's identity.

"The challenge for us is for children who are born through international surrogacy is that the same form of protection wouldn't be provided for them," Ms Ward said.

"That is an omission. It would amount to a form of discrimination, if children who were born outside the State and there was not an attempt to preserve of protect or recognise their identity," she added.

Ms Ward said there are legal solutions and pointed to The Children and Family Relationships Act which provides for a donor conceived register and included children who had been conceived outside the State.

"If we don't legislate in this area, we will continue to see situations where children are conceived potentially in very exploitative circumstances around the world and when they arrive back they are faced with the same problems where their identity is not protected," she said.

"There has been exploitation of their commissioning parents, they might find out that they are not even genetically connected to the commissioning parents," Ms Ward added.

"We do believe there is an onus to provide a legal framework to resolve these issues," she said.

The name of the birth mother should be on the birth certificate of a child born through surrogacy, an international expert has argued.

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, told the committee that anything else would risk amounting to the sale of a child.

Under Irish law, the child's mother is deemed to be the person who gave birth.

This means that, legally, the child's mother is not the intended parent and the intended parent cannot apply for parental rights, but can apply to adopt the child.

This has led to situations where genetic mothers have claimed they are "legal strangers" to their own children, they cannot apply for a child's passport, attend hospital with them or give permission for school trips.

Irish law has no jurisdiction on the birth certs of other countries, in cases where children are born through international surrogacy.

But Ms Boer-Buquicchio told the committee that in cases where a birth mother was not given rights to be named on a birth cert, this would legalise pre-birth enforceable contracts, including the transfer of legal parentage, and that would amount to the sale of a child.

She said: "I would definitely prefer and hope that the name of the birth mother is on the identity document," she said, adding that information about the genetic parents and the conception could be on another, separate, document.

She appealed to committee members to think of the concept of sale when considering proposed laws.

"It is something that should not be allowed and it has very clear elements: It is payment, it is transfer and it is the exchange of payment for transfer."

Committee chair Jennifer Whitmore said "there would be a risk, if a publicly available birth cert listed as surrogate on it, if that was made known there could be some element of discrimination against the child on the basis of their origins".

She asked: "Is it the case that the right to their identity can be met through a non-private register of their identity rather through placing the name of the surrogate on the name of a publicly available birth cert?"

Ms de Boer-Buquicchio replied: "the birth mother's name should be there. All the rest should be dealt with in a separate confidential register".

Ms Ward said it was hard to disagree with a UN special rapporteur on the issue, and that it was a question of identity and protection against exploitation.

But she said having a surrogate mother on a birth cert could present privacy issues for children and "opens the door for some interference in a child's life".

She said: "I wonder is there another way to deal with this, between short and long birth certificates. The legal fact is the legal fact, but that might be a practical way around it."

Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery-Kearney said: "I have no desire for the surrogate mother's name, or her existence or her relationship to be obliterated under any circumstances.

"But a child has to produce a birth certificate going to school, there are many instances in our lives when we have to produce our birth certificates."