PQ: EU Agreements (EU-Turkey Agreement)

Tue, March 22, 2016

257. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will ensure that Ireland does not sign up to a new agreement with Turkey at the meeting of the European Council this week which, if successfully passed, will be in contravention of our international obligations to protect refugees in accordance with the United Nations; if Ireland will contribute any further payments to Turkey or accept any more refugees other than those agreed to in September 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): At the European Council meeting on 17 and 18 March, attended by the Taoiseach, the Heads of State or Government of the 28 EU Member States agreed additional action points with Turkey, as set out in the Joint EU-Turkey Statement. This includes an agreement that all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands as and from 20 March will be returned to Turkey. It was also agreed that the return of irregular migrants to Turkey will take place in full accordance with EU and international law. Furthermore, all migrants will be protected in accordance with the relevant international standards and in respect of the principle of non-refoulement. For each Syrian returned to Turkey under this agreement, the EU will resettle one Syrian in need of international protection directly from Turkey to the EU. As the Statement notes, this will be a temporary and extraordinary measure which is necessary to end human suffering and to restore public order.

The Statement does not establish any new commitments on Member States as far as the EU Relocation and Resettlement programmes are concerned under which the Government has already agreed to accept up to 4,000 persons overall under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.

Ireland will contribute €22.9 million to the Facility for Refugees in Turkey out of the total funding of €3 billion agreed under the Joint EU-Turkey Action Plan, which was activated on 29 November last. It is important to note that this funding is to support refugees in Turkey and will focus on meeting their immediate needs by providing food, health services and education. The first projects under the Facility announced by the Commission at the beginning of this month will provide access to formal education for Syrian children in Turkey and humanitarian aid through the World Food Programme which will help to reach 735,000 Syrian refugees with food aid.

The EU-Turkey Statement commits additional funding of up to €3 billion to the Facility for Refugees only if the original €3 billion is fully spent and if all commitments under the agreement with Turkey are met. A decision on a contribution to be made by Ireland to this additional funding will be a matter for the incoming administration, if required.