PQ: Refugee Data

Wed, February 8, 2017

88. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if the number of immigrants Ireland had accommodated since 2015 was outlined at the Malta meeting on 3 February 2017 and plans for more in 2017 and the details of same.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I understand that the Deputy is referring to the intake of persons under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). The IRPP was established by Government Decision on 10 September 2015 as a direct response to the humanitarian crisis that developed in Southern Europe as a consequence of mass migration from areas of conflict in the Middle East and Africa. Under this programme, the Government has pledged to accept a total of 4,000 persons into the State, 2,622 through the EU relocation mechanism established by two EU Council Decisions in 2015 to assist Italy and Greece, 1,040 (519 by the end of 2016 and the remainder in 2017) under the UNHCR-led refugee resettlement programme currently focused on resettling refugees from Lebanon and the balance through a variety of mechanisms. Some elements of this intake, such as the relocation strand, come with a time limit of two years and other elements are not time bound.

In a further gesture of humanitarian assistance towards the most vulnerable caught up in the migration crisis and following a debate in the Dáil, the Government also committed to taking up to 200 unaccompanied minors from France who were previously resident in the migrant camp at Calais. These initiatives therefore leave just a small residual balance to be allocated from the Government decision to take 4,000 persons.

Taking account of the situation in the Middle East, and the plight of the refugees, the Tánaiste announced that Ireland would accept 520 persons for resettlement over an 18-month period to the end of 2017. This was almost double the figure proposed for Ireland by the European Commission and was delivered a year ahead of the Commission deadline. In addition, the Government recently announced that it is extending the resettlement programme to take in a further 520 refugees from Lebanon in 2017, most of whom are of Syrian origin. 260 refugees have already been selected during a selection mission to Lebanon in October 2016 and are expected to arrive in Spring 2017. Most of these refugees are also Syrian. A further selection mission to Lebanon will be arranged in the coming months to select the remaining refugees due to come to Ireland in 2017 under the resettlement programme.

In relation to the EU Relocation Programme, Ireland has to date taken in 241 people from Greece. In November, IRPP officials travelled to Athens and interviewed a group of 84 people who once cleared for travel, are expected to arrive over the next two weeks. An IRPP mission to interview 80 people took place in Athens from 12 – 16 December. A further mission has already taken place in January which interviewed 61 people. An IRPP team are currently on the ground in Athens interviewing another group of over 90 asylum seekers. The intention thereafter is to sustain the pace of intakes throughout 2017 at the levels required to allow Ireland to meets its commitments to Greece within the time frame envisaged by the Programme.

Ireland will meet in full its commitment to Greece. However, as explained in responses to previous Parliamentary Questions, matters relating to security assessments of the asylum seeker cohort eligible for relocation from Italy to Ireland remain to be resolved. Accordingly, it has not been possible as yet for Ireland to take asylum seekers from Italy. Numerous efforts have been made and continue to be made to resolve this situation.

The topic of ‘Migration’, in the context of the ongoing crisis, remains a standing agenda item for all meetings of the Justice and Home Affairs Council and of the European Council and I expect that this will continue for the foreseeable future.