Debate in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann on Resettlement of Refugees

14th May 2015

Topical Issues Debate

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Damien English):  I thank the Deputies for raising today Ireland's decision to resettle refugees as part of the EU resettlement programme. I am speaking on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, who regrets she is unable to be present for the debate due to previous official commitments. I will, of course, bring the views of the Deputies to her attention and that of the other relevant Ministers before the meeting next week. I will ensure the transcript of the debate is read.

Ireland has participated in an UN-led resettlement programme since 2000. This programme is co-ordinated by the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration in the Department of Justice and Equality. Prior to Ireland's participation in this UN programme, Ireland had offered resettlement to groups of refugees, including Hungarians, Chileans, Vietnamese, Bosnians and Kosovars, since the 1950s.

Since the beginning of the UNHCR-led resettlement programme in 2000, 1,198 vulnerable persons from 27 different countries of origin have been resettled here. In general, the refugees resettled in Ireland come from Africa or Asia. The largest communities are from countries such as Burma, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Syria. Ireland is working closely with the UNHCR to respond to the plight of the most vulnerable persons displaced by these conflicts and has played its part in the international community resettlement effort and will continue to do so in the context of the EU response to the Mediterranean refugee crisis.

The total number of persons displaced by the Syrian conflict admitted to Ireland under the resettlement programme from 2013 to date is 138. This includes 31 Afghans and four Iraqi Palestinians admitted from Damascus in 2013, 90 Syrian refugees admitted from Jordan and Lebanon in 2014 and 13 Syrian refugees who arrived from Jordan in April 2015. Prior to yesterday's announcement, the Minister had already committed to resettling 100 refugees in 2015 and 120 refugees in 2016. The focus was on refugees caught up in the conflict in the Middle East, notably Iraq and Syria, including a number of refugees who have urgent medical needs.

The EU agenda on migration, published yesterday, includes specific proposals on the resettlement of migrants in Europe under which Ireland was expected to receive 272 people by the end of 2016. Rather than waiting until the Commission's proposals are discussed formally by home affairs Ministers in June, the Minister announced yesterday that the Government has agreed in principle to resettle an additional 300 vulnerable people as our contribution to this European initiative. In addition, Ireland has operated a Syrian humanitarian application programme under which 114 people arrived in Ireland this year to join family already here.

Concluding Remarks
The commitment to resettle an additional 300 vulnerable people, announced yesterday, is part of the wider Government contribution to the crisis in the Mediterranean. It includes sending a naval vessel to the region to engage in search and rescue. Violence, conflict and instability have a horrendous impact on civilian populations. As the Deputies stated, families are faced with repeated displacement due to conflict and have very limited access to basic services. Ireland will continue to assist people affected by conflict and persecution. This year, it will provide nearly €80 million in funding to support communities affected by humanitarian crises, including in Syria, Yemen, northern Nigeria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and other conflict-affected areas. The EU Commission proposals published yesterday are comprehensive and cover a number of issues that require detailed answers before the European Council meeting in June.

The Minister for Justice and Equality has previously expressed her horror and outrage at the tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea. She has consistently said that the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean is an EU issue that requires a co-ordinated EU response and that Ireland will play its part in that.

A link to the full debate is available here -

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