To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the State has not taken asylum seekers from Italy under the relocation programme; the efforts that are being made to resolve this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (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.
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, unlike Greece, will not permit security assessments to be undertaken by other States on its territory. Accordingly, Ireland has been unable to undertake security assessments on its territory of the asylum seeker cohort eligible for relocation to Ireland. It has therefore not been possible for Ireland to take asylum seekers from Italy. Intensive efforts are ongoing to resolve this, both bilaterally with Italian counterparts at official, diplomatic and Ministerial level, and at EU level, including through the European Commission. A solution may yet emerge from a recent meeting held in Rome between senior officials from Ireland and Italy.
In terms of the unallocated portion contained in the two EU Council Decisions referred to above, which in the case of Ireland amounts to 910 persons, Ireland cannot access this component until a decision is taken at EU level to allocate these numbers as between Greece and Italy. It is understood that the European Commission are examining allocating this "unassigned" portion and if they do Ireland will immediately work towards relocating them.
Ireland is doing everything it can to give effect to the EU relocation Decisions and what can unambiguously be 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, then the Government commitment to take in 4,000 people remains and Ireland will take in these numbers through other mechanisms should this prove necessary.