CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
I attended the UN Summit on Refugee and Migrants on 19 September 2016 and the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees on 20 September 2016 on behalf of the Government.
Both Summits have highlighted the need for international cooperation to address the growing refugee and migration crisis and I share the concern at the scale of this crisis. 65m people are estimated to be displaced, 40% of whom are children.
As you are aware, the Government voluntarily agreed to join the EU response to this crisis and to accept 4,000 refugees under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.
While progress was initially slow, the numbers are now increasing quickly. 555 refugees have already come to Ireland. More are coming over the next weeks. Each month, we anticipate a further intake. The aim is that between 880 and 1000 persons will have arrived before the end of the year.
Preparations are underway to bring a further 260 persons from Lebanon early in 2017 under the Resettlement Programme. My aim is to make a further pledge next spring to accept more refugees from those currently located in Lebanon.
These pledges are in addition to the number of people due to come to Ireland from Greece. We have formally notified the Greek authorities that we wish to accept 1,000 relocated refugees by the end of September 2017.
The success of our programme depends on international cooperation and on developing the international mechanisms that enable us to bring vulnerable people across Europe to a new home here in Ireland.
We have seen now at first hand how differing systems internationally and implementation problems externally can delay a national programme.
Developing and strengthening international cooperation mechanisms are crucial if we are to tackle the refugee crisis.
The UN Summit, which Ireland co-facilitated with Jordan, agreed a comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. The Framework sets out an extensive range of concrete actions which, once implemented, should bring about real improvements in the situation and experience of refugees across the world.
The Framework, which is addressed to host countries, transit countries and third parties, covers issues such as reception, the immediate and ongoing needs of refugees, the importance of support for host countries and the action needed to achieve durable solutions.
The Framework commits countries to:
- Protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status. This includes the rights of women and girls, promoting their full, equal and meaningful participation in finding solutions to refugee situations.
- Ensure that all refugee children are receiving education within a few months of arrival in their country of resettlement.
- Prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence experienced by refugees and migrants.
- Work towards ending the practice of detaining children for the purpose of determining their migration status.
- Improve the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance to the countries most affected, including through innovative multilateral financial solutions, with the goal of closing all funding gaps.
- Find new homes for all refugees identified by the UNHCR as needing resettlement and expand the opportunities for refugees to relocate to other countries through, for example, labour mobility or education schemes.
I believe that it provides an important menu of actions for the international community for the next years. It is intended as the foundation for a Global Compact on Migration, to be agreed in 2018, which seeks to develop a global response to the issue of migration more broadly.
Ireland’s practice on resettling refugees meets the obligations of the Refugee Response Framework. We enable refugees to access mainstream services such as health, education and social protection.
Refugee children are enabled to attend school, for instance, from the time that they come to Ireland. We also fund resettlement workers to support the integration of refugees into their new communities.
However, I believe that the UN Summit process and the Refugee Response Framework have confirmed that tackling the refugee crisis must be an international priority for the years ahead. As a result, I anticipate that the Irish Refugee Protection Programme will have to run beyond 2017 and that Ireland will be expected to continue to accept programme refugees in the years ahead.
Ireland was also invited by President Obama to the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees which highlighted the need for international action to address the refugee crisis.
The Leaders’ Summit is intended to secure international cooperation towards three principal aims:
- To increase funding to humanitarian appeals and international organizations;
- To admit more refugees through resettlement or other legal pathways; and
- To increase refugees’ self-reliance and inclusion through opportunities for education and legal work.
Ireland has joined the Joint Statement that is being issued from the Leaders’ Summit. That Statement commits participating countries to do more in terms of humanitarian assistance and on resettlement of refugees. It also commits participating countries to work together in support of the development of the Global Compact on Responsibility Sharing for Refugees.
I indicated at both Summits that the complexity of the factors driving the current crisis necessitate a global response. No one country can solve this challenge. The response is multi-faceted. It involves conflict prevention and resolution, development aid, poverty prevention and an international focus on human rights.
I pointed to the specific role that can be played by women and girls, if facilitated to join peace processes. Their involvement has been found to lead to more durable solutions to conflicts. I referenced the important work being undertaken by Ireland within the UN and other international fora to promote the women, peace and security agenda.
As well as reporting on the establishment of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, I also referred to Ireland’s strong record on overseas development aid. Ireland’s development aid budget in 2015 was €647m. Of this, Ireland contributed approximately €140m in humanitarian assistance last year. Our response to the Syria crisis will exceed €62m by the end of 2016. I indicated that as our economy grows, I anticipate that we will be able to give more.
I also referred to the crucial role being played by the Irish Navy in rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean. To date, 12,400 people have been rescued.
In conclusion, I consider that the Summits have signalled the international community’s determination to do more to address the refugee crisis. They are an important first step in developing an international response on this issue.
As I indicated, Ireland will not be found waiting in supporting international efforts to address this crisis.