PQ: Refugee Resettlement Programme

Tue, February 7, 2017

101. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if adequate temporary accommodation has been sourced to facilitate the remainder of the 4,000 refugee target before 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, and 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. 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.

Those destined for the new Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre (EROC) in Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon for example will be asylum seekers coming via the Greece/Italy route. As this cohort are expected to receive a grant of international protection within a period of 8-12 weeks, their stay in EROCs is intended to be short-term after which they will be housed elsewhere in Ireland.

EROCs

As the name suggests, an EROC is largely about reception and orientation for those who are to be subsequently resettled. The overwhelming majority of persons being relocated to Ireland are fleeing the war in Syria. The services being provided will include education, English language training for adults, the services of a General Practitioner, HSE medical screening, and access to the services of the Department of Social Protection. A core part of the job of the IRPP is coordination and ensuring appropriate service delivery. Staff of the IRPP hold weekly clinics in the EROC with clients and any service level issues become immediately apparent.

Relocation Strand

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 selection process for EROCs

In recognition that the vulnerable migrants arriving under the IRPP would need some form of emergency accommodation and service provision, an expression of interest process was launched in October 2015 to identify potential properties capable of meeting that requirement. In assessing the suitability of potential EROCs, consideration is given to a number of factors including:

– the accommodation capacity of the EROC

– its potential for on-site services

– the potential availability of school placements for children of a school going age in the general area

– the potential availability of primary care and hospitals within reasonable travelling distance

– the experience of the location in having asylum seekers previously

– availability of other local services including public transport and shopping

– potential for the centre managers to provide additional services to both residents and local population

– potential benefits to local commerce

Approximately 90 properties were offered in response to the call for expressions of interest. After a short-listing exercise based on suitability and state of repair, 14 properties emerged as having potential. The selection process was suspended in early 2016 because the numbers arriving under the EU relocation programme were lower than anticipated due to operational problems in Greece and Italy. When the numbers arriving increased in late 2016, the short list was re-examined.

The Deputy should note that the property in Ballaghaderreen was identified on the short list to be made operational as a suitable EROC within a time frame that would meet demand in early 2017. As there will be a need for further EROCs to receive further persons arriving under the Programme over the coming months, a new expression of interest exercise will commence in the coming weeks. It is envisaged that adequate temporary accommodation will be sourced to temporarily accommodate the numbers of asylum seekers and refugees likely to arrive in 2017 and indeed 2018.

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