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. The Programme is operated by the Office for Promotion of Migrant Integration (OPMI).
Under this programme, the Government pledged to accept a total of 4,000 persons into the State, using the following mechanisms:
Refugee Resettlement - 1,040 programme refugees under the resettlement programme currently focused on resettling UNHCR refugees from Lebanon,
Other mechanisms - The balance through a variety of different mechanisms including the acceptance of unaccompanied minors previously resident in the unofficial camp in Calais.
Due to a shortfall of available numbers of people under the EU Relocation mechanism, the Government has had to find other mechanisms to deliver on the commitment made by Ireland. The shortfall in numbers will therefore be filled over time by increasing the numbers being taken in under Refugee Resettlement pledges for programme refugees and family reunification arrivals under the proposed new Family Humanitarian Admission Programme for persons arriving under the IRPP.
What is EU Relocation?
Relocation is the transfer of asylum seekers who are in clear need of international protection from one EU Member State to another European State. Their asylum application will only be examined once the relocation has taken place. Currently, relocation is possible from Italy and Greece. The EU relocation scheme ended on 26 September 2017. However, asylum seekers who had arrived in either Greece or Italy and were fingerprinted by this date, are still eligible to register for relocation under the scheme. Only asylum seekers from certain countries are eligible. As of the 1st July 2017 these are Eritrea, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bhutan, Qatar, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. A stateless person previously residing in one of these countries is also eligible subject to the time limit of 26 September 2017.
States taking part in the EU Relocation Programme must make regular pledges specifying a number of asylum seekers which they are prepared to take from those States benefiting from the programme (Greece and Italy). When making these pledges, States can (and usually do) express a preference in terms of demographics including gender, nationality, age etc., continue until each State has met its quota under the relevant Council Decisions. However, unlike refugee resettlement, States are only allowed to express a preference and cannot pick and choose people themselves. The selection of candidates is done by the asylum services in the benefiting country (Greece or Italy). The only circumstance in which a person can be refused under the EU Relocation Programme is where there is a reasonable concern the person may be a threat to national security or public order in the receiving State.
Irish relocation mission teams comprise officials from the OPMI, the International Protection Office, Tusla and An Garda Síochána. These teams carry out needs assessment interview, security interviews and provide information on Ireland to persons who have opted to relocate their asylum application to Ireland. Needs assessments are informed by advice from a number of Governmen tDEpartments and Agencies including the Department of Education and Skills, the Health Service Executive and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. [Click here to find out more from the European Asylum Support Office - EASO]
What is Refugee Resettlement?
Refugee Resettlement under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) involves the selection and transfer of refugees from a State in which they have sought protection to a third State that has agreed to admit them ‐ as refugees ‐ with permanent residence status. Resettlement is also an international responsibility sharing mechanism, allowing States to offer protection to refugees outside their territories, and reduce problems impacting the countries and regions where refugees flee to en masse. States are not obliged to accept refugees for resettlement, but rather voluntarily offer resettlement places as a tangible expression of international solidarity.
Ireland has a long and proud tradition of involvement in Refugee Resettlement stretching back over 60 years to when Hungarian refugees fleeing political persecution first arrived. The Irish Refugee Resettlement Programme pre-dates the IRPP and has provided sanctuary and a new home to people from as far afield as Vietnam, Bosnia and Myanmar over past decades. In recent years the programme has been firmly focused on refugees from the Middle East residing in UNHCR run camps in Lebanon and Jordan.
Similar to the missions under the EU Relocation Programme, Irish refugee resettlement teams comprise officials from the OPMI and the Garda Síochána and travel to host States to carry out needs assessments, security interviews and provide information on Ireland to those who have been selected to resettle here. Officials from Tusla and the International Protection office generally do not travel on these missions as there is no claim to International Protection to be processed and unaccompanied minors are rarely among the cohorts selected. Unlike EU relocation, Ireland has the final say in terms of selecting persons for resettlement. [Click here to find out more from the UNHCR]
What other mechanisms is the Government using to fulfil its promise of helping 4,000 people under the IRPP?
Resettlement of Unaccompanied Minors formerly staying at the unofficial refugee camp at Calais, France.
In November 2016 there was all party agreement on a Government motion to identify and relocate to Ireland up to 200 unaccompanied minors formerly resident at the unofficial refugee camp in Calais as part of the IRPP. Responsibility for this part of the programme rests with Tusla the Chikd and Family Agency which operates under the auspices of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. [Click here to visit the Tusla website]
Family Humanitarian Admission Programme (FRHAP)
Recently, as part of the IRPP, Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan T.D., announced a new Family Humanitarian Admission Programme (FRHAP) which provides for 530 immediate family members of refugees from established conflict zones to come to Ireland over a two year period. Click here for more