The commitments the government has made in terms of accepting refugees and unaccompanied minors here; the number of persons to date in 2017 that have been accepted under the various resettlement and relocation programmes
QUESTION NO: 306
DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charlie Flanagan)
by Deputy Darragh O'Brien
for WRITTEN on Tuesday, 11th July, 2017.
* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the commitments the government has made in terms of accepting refugees and unaccompanied minors here; the number of persons to date in 2017 that have been accepted under the various resettlement and relocation programmes; the number of unaccompanied minors that have arrived here to date in 2017; if he expects Ireland to meet its commitment of accepting 4,000 refugees by the end of 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien
As the Deputy may be aware, in September 2015, the Government established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme and agreed to accept up to 4,000 persons overall under Resettlement and Relocation Programmes at the earliest time possible.
As regards the Resettlement strand of the programme, we had taken in 519 of our original commitment of 520 under the EU Resettlement Agreement of July 2015, by the end of 2016, a full year ahead of the European Commission's schedule. As a result, last year, the Government doubled its commitment under resettlement to 1,040. The number of persons who have arrived from Lebanon under the UNHCR-led resettlement programme now stands at 785. The remaining 255 persons to arrive under resettlement have been selected and assessed and are expected to arrive later in the year, also from Lebanon.
Under the EU Relocation programme, 459 of our allocation of 1,089 from Greece are already in the State and a further 357 have been assessed and are awaiting transfer to Ireland. A further mission to Athens this month assessed 101 persons. Relocations from Italy have not been possible, to date, due to the refusal by the Italian authorities to allow other Member States, including Ireland, to conduct security assessments of candidates on its soil. Bilateral discussions are continuing to try to resolve this impasse and the Commission has asked Italy to again examine the matter. The Deputy should also be aware the actual numbers eligible for relocation from Italy and Greece are much lower than those originally envisaged under the two Council Decisions of September 2015 (160,000 people). In its most recent publication on Relocation and Resettlement, published on 13 June, the Commission estimates some 39,000 people eligible and registered for relocation in Italy and Greece, of which approximately 21,000 have been relocated to other Member States to date.
Ireland agreed to take up to 20 unaccompanied minors (UAMs) under the relocation aspects of the IRPP. Ireland's capacity to take UAMs is determined by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Six UAMs (by the stricter Irish definition) have arrived in Ireland from Greece under the programme. However, relatively few UAMs appear to be available within the cohort eligible for relocation and efforts continue to seek further transfers within this cohort. All UAMs that have arrived to-date are in the care of Tusla.
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 additional unaccompanied minors from France who were previously resident in the migrant camp at Calais. On foot of the Government Decision, Tusla - The Child and Family Agency, which comes within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, T.D., launched the Calais Special Project (CSP). This is being led operationally by their Separated Children Seeking Asylum team. All of the unaccompanied minors that have been identified in cooperation with the French authorities as suitable for relocation to Ireland have been accepted into Ireland and provided with the appropriate supports. I understand that 21 young persons have been relocated to this jurisdiction to-date, 19 of whom are currently in the care of Tusla, and two of whom have been reunited with family members living in Ireland.
I am satisfied that we are making progress to ensure many more people can come to Ireland under our resettlement and relocation programmes. Our attention is focused on meeting these targets and the needs of those accepted under the programmes on arrival. Significant resources are currently being invested in these humanitarian efforts through the various offices in my Department and in other Departments and agencies. As a result we have established functioning mechanisms and associated expertise to deal with resettlement and relocation. It is essential that we continue our efforts to complete the IRPP successfully before we look to apply the learning from this Programme to deliberations with regards to any future refugee intake. Decisions taken at EU level with regard to the ongoing migration crisis will of course impact on any such deliberations.