PQ: Refugee Resettlement Programme

Tue, February 7, 2017

100. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she is still planning to reach the target of 4,000 refugees taken under the Irish refugee protection programme by September 2017.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): As the Deputy will be aware, the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (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 focussed 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 limited.

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.

Resettlement strand of the programme

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.

Relocation strand of the 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 in February. 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.

The Deputy should note that the group interviewed in November are scheduled to arrive into Ireland over the next two weeks.

Table of Total Numbers under Government Decision to Accept 4,000

Relocation Strand Numbers
Council Decision 2015/1523 600
Council Decision 2015/1601 2,022
Total Relocation 2,622
Resettlement Strand
Government Decision 09/06/15 520
Government Decision 06/07/16 260
Government Decision 29/11/16 260
Total Resettlement 1,040
Total Unaccompanied Minors Calais 200 (up to)
Mechanism as yet undecided 138
Grand Total 4000

The Deputy may wish to note that under the relevant EU Council decisions the relocation strand of the IRPP is composed of three elements:

– an intake from Greece of 1,089 asylum seekers

– an intake from Italy of 623 asylum seekers and

– an allocation of 910 asylum seekers which has not yet been assigned to either Italy or Greece.

Ireland will meet in full its commitment to Greece. However, as explained in responses to previous Parliamentary Questions tabled by colleagues, Italy has not allowed Ireland to undertake security assessments on its territory of the asylum seeker cohort eligible for relocation to Ireland. Accordingly, it has not been possible for Ireland to take asylum seekers from Italy. Numerous efforts have been made to resolve this situation and efforts at diplomatic and Ministerial level continue. A solution may yet emerge from the most recent contacts. In terms of the unallocated portion contained in the two EU Council decisions Ireland cannot access this component until a decision is taken at EU level.

What can be unambiguously said is that, should it be the case that despite all Ireland’s efforts, the relocation mechanism does not permit Ireland to take in sufficient numbers of asylum seekers under relocation the Government commitment to take in 4,000 people remains and Ireland will take in these numbers through other mechanisms should this prove necessary.