* To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in accepting up to 200 unaccompanied minors from the dismantled Calais camp; if these children are part of or in addition to the 4,000 refugees Ireland has committed to under the various resettlement and relocation programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien
The Government has been proactively engaged with the French authorities in identifying young people previously living in the camp in Calais who may wish to come to Ireland. Following the approval by Government of the appropriate legal mechanism and the identification of considerable resources needed, officials from my Department, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency positively engaged with the French authorities in Paris in early January with a view to identifying these unaccompanied minors. There has also been ongoing contact with the NGO sector.
Subsequent to the officials meeting, the first mission to meet unaccompanied minors took place last week and included representatives of Tusla, which has statutory responsibility for the care and accommodation of unaccompanied minors in the State. The Tusla officials were accompanied by a member of staff from the Irish Refugee Protection Programme Office of my Department and members of An Garda Síochána who carried out security assessments. Four unaccompanied minors were assessed during this initial mission and will be relocated in the near future subject to the completion of the security assessment process. The next mission to another centre in France will take place very shortly to interview another six young people wishing to come here. Irish officials have drawn up detailed questionnaires to rapidly progress the identification of these young people. I also understand that NGO's have this week identified a total of six young people to my Department. Separately, two young people identified by the French Red Cross as having a relative here have already been processed and have arrived safely in Ireland. Although decisions regarding numbers and dates for future missions are matters for Tusla to determine in cooperation with the French authorities, it is anticipated that approximately 60 young people could be identified by the authorities and processed over the course of the coming months as willing to come to Ireland and we have committed to accept all of these on a phased basis, as soon as resources come on stream and subject to the aforementioned security process. The best interests of the child is central to this partnership process with the French authorities.
The intention is to rapidly process these young people by using some of the yet unallocated numbers included in the original decision to welcome 4000 refugees here and does not impact on the commitments entered into in relation to the EU Relocation or Resettlement Programmes.