PQ: Refugee Resettlement Programme

Tue, February 7, 2017

141. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality further to media reports (details supplied), if she will liaise with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and grant refugee status for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender, LGBT, Iranians that were due to be resettled in the United States but are now stranded in Turkey as a result of the recent executive order on immigration; her Department’s policy with regard to those seeking refuge here on the basis of persecution as a result of their sexual orientation; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): 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 up to 4,000 persons into the State under the relocation and resettlement strands. I initially 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 has been delivered a year ahead of their deadline. As a result, I recently announced that we are extending the resettlement programme to take in a further 520 programme refugees from Lebanon in 2017. 260 of these programme refugees have already been selected during a mission to Lebanon in October 2016 and are expected to arrive this Spring. A further selection mission to Lebanon will be arranged in the coming months to select the remaining persons to be resettled to Ireland this year.

The resettlement programme is led by UNHCR and is currently focused on resettling (mainly Syrian) refugees from Lebanon and Jordan. Persons selected for inclusion in the Irish Refugee Protection Programme’s resettlement strand must be referred directly to Ireland by UNHCR, having been registered as a refugee in Lebanon or Jordan. The expansion of this programme, together with the accelerated pace of the EU Relocation Programme will make it a very challenging year for the State services involved. I have no plans to further expand these programmes.

My Department’s policy with regard to those seeking refugee status here on the basis of persecution as a result of their sexual orientation is covered under Section 8(1) of the International Protection Act, 2015 which was commenced on 31 December, 2016. The legislation includes sexual orientation as one of the reasons for persecution which an international protection officer or the International Protection Appeals Tribunal, as the case may be, may consider when determining applications for protection status.