525. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the measures being taken to accommodate refugees from the Syrian crisis; the way they can be integrated into society and allowed to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25224/18]
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 10th 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 pledged to accept a total of 4,000 persons into the State including through the recently announced IRPP Humanitarian Assistance Programme (IHAP), which will provide for the admission of up to 530 immediate family members of Irish citizens, persons with Convention refugee or subsidiary protection status and persons with programme refugee status.
The implementation of the IRPP for resettling Syrian refugees requires a high level of coordination among service delivery agencies at both national and local level. Service provision is mainstreamed and all the main statutory service providers such as Government departments, the HSE, Tusla and Local Authorities are represented on the national Taskforce which oversees delivery of the programme. In general, coordination is ensured via the IRPP which is part of the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration (OPMI) within my Department. OPMI is the primary entity responsible for delivering resettlement via a range of statutory and non-statutory agencies. It has overseen the humanitarian resettlement programmes run by Ireland since they were established in 2000.
My Department is mobilising European Union Funding under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in support of Ireland's resettlement efforts, including to fund supports provided through local authorities to the refugees. Local authorities play a critical role in ensuring the success of each resettlement through the provision of housing and the implementation of a process carried out by an "implementing partner" with expertise in community integration and relevant supports.
My Department also works closely with the Irish Red Cross which was assigned responsibility by the Government for administering public pledges of support, especially in the area of accommodation. Its case workers and support team work closely with IRPP and refugees to find suitable accommodation options.
Programme refugees have the right to work in Ireland. Supports are provided under the auspices of the programme to enable them to be in a position to secure employment. These include:
- The IRPP liaises with the Department of Education and Skills and the local Education and Training Board in each catchment area to ensure that groups receive a Language Training and Cultural Orientation programme and to facilitate access to education.
- Free childcare is provided wherever possible to allow the adults to attend the Language and Orientation programme in their Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre (EROC).
- Local service providers, volunteers and NGOs visit the EROCs to provide services and information and to support and befriend the asylum seekers or refugees.
Increasingly, the IRPP is focusing on initiatives which assist with labour market activation for refugees and is working with the Irish Red Cross and other bodies to facilitate access to employment. Various initiatives are also developing in the educational sphere.
With regard to integration more generally, the Migrant Integration Strategy, which was published on 7 February 2017, offers a blueprint for Government action to promote the integration of all migrants who are legally in the State, including refugees, for the period to 2020. It sees integration as a two-way process involving action by migrants and non-migrants alike. The Strategy comprises 76 specific actions under a number of themes to be implemented by Government Departments and Agencies, the business sector, employers, local authorities and community and voluntary sector organisations. The Employment and Pathways to Work theme contains actions designed to enable migrants, including refugees, to participate in employment. Among other actions, the Strategy requires Government Departments and agencies to address integration in strategy statements; to ensure appropriate, regular engagement with NGOs representing migrant groups; and to provide intercultural awareness training.
The strategy includes targeted initiatives to promote migrant entrepreneurship, to encourage migrants into the Civil Service and onto State boards and to improve English language provision in education and training. It is accompanied by a Communities Integration Fund which provides funding for 131 initiatives by community organisations aimed at promoting migrant integration and facilitating social inclusion at the local level.
The strategy is available on the website of the Office for Promotion for Migrant Integration at www.integration.ie.
It is my firm intention that the model of integration and support is one which will evolve and develop over the coming months and years with a view to offering refugees increasing opportunities to enhance their own lives. It is for this reason I am examining initiatives such as community sponsorship to support the long-term integration process.