To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice her views on whether the government will meet its target of accepting 4,000 persons under the Irish refugee protection programme by the end of 2017
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality further to parliamentary question numbers 156 to 158 of 23 May 2017, her views on whether the government will meet its target of accepting 4,000 persons under the Irish refugee protection programme by the end of 2017 in view of the fact that to date it has only accepted 1,238 persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton)
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, 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, and the balance through a variety of mechanisms. 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.
As regards the resettlement strand of the Programme Ireland had taken in 519 of the original commitment of 520 by the end of 2016 a year ahead of schedule. Last year the Government doubled its commitment under resettlement to 1,040 and the total to have arrived from Lebanon under refugee resettlement now stands at 779. The remaining 261 persons to arrive under resettlement have been selected and assessed and are expected to arrive later in the year.
In terms of the relocation aspect of the IRPP, allocations under the relevant EU Council Decisions are 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. 459 of the allocation of 1,089 are already in the State and a further 320 have been assessed and are awaiting transportation. A further mission to assess the next 100 is scheduled to take place in Athens next week and missions to fill the remaining 210 places under this strand of the Programme have been scheduled with the Greek authorities between now and September 2017. However, as explained in responses to a related parliamentary question tabled by the Deputy last week, 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.