53. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of refugees settled here under the Irish refugee protection programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40309/16]
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 pledged to accept a total of 4,000 persons into the State by the end of 2017, through a combination of the EU relocation mechanism established by two EU Council Decisions in 2015 to assist Italy and Greece, and the UNHCR-led refugee resettlement programme currently focused on resettling refugees from camps in Jordan and Lebanon.
Under the resettlement strand of the IRPP, 519 persons out of the original quota of 520 persons displaced by the Syrian conflict have arrived in Ireland to date, well ahead of the EU Commission deadline for this programme. In addition, the Government recently announced that it is extending the resettlement programme to take in a further 520 refugees from Lebanon in 2017. Sufficient refugees to fill 260 places on this quota have already been selected during a selection mission to Lebanon in October 2016 and these refugees are expected to arrive in Spring 2017. A further selection mission to Lebanon will be arranged in coming months to select the balance of the 2017 quota. Ireland will therefore have accepted 1,040 refugees under this strand by the end of 2017.
Under the relocation strand of the IRPP Ireland was allocated a total of 2,622 persons by two Council decisions and these were apportioned between Italy and Greece. 1,089 of this quota is to come from Greece and 623 from Italy. The balance of 910 has yet to be assigned by the Commission to either country but it is anticipated that the Commissions may take a decision in this regard in the New Year.
As the Deputy may be aware the relocation strand of the IRPP was slow to become active largely because of serious operational difficulties in Italy and Greece in establishing camps and hot spots and registering asylum seekers under the EU Programme. In the case of Greece the programme is now fully operational and Ireland will deliver on its commitment by the deadline. In the case of Italy, serious difficulties persist as the Italian authorities have taken a position that they will not allow security assessments on Italian soil by an Garda Síochána of applicants for relocation. There have been several attempts to resolve this issue including a bi-lateral intervention by me with my Italian counterpart. Efforts continue to try to resolve the matter and I remain hopeful that a solution can be found.
Ireland has, to-date, taken in 109 asylum seekers from Greece, mostly families, and a further 130 asylum seekers are to arrive in Dublin Airport tomorrow, Friday 16 December, 2016. A further 84 people have been assessed in Athens by the IRPP team and cleared for arrival and arrangements for their travel to the State are currently being made. The IRPP team includes members of the Department of Justice and Equality, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC), an Garda Síochána and, as necessary, representatives of other Departments and Agencies, such as Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. This week, IRPP officials are interviewing a group of approximately 80 people in Athens who, subject to Garda security assessments, are expected to be approved for arrival early in the New Year. In all, this means that over 400 persons, mostly families with young children, will have either arrived in Ireland or been assessed for arrival by the end of 2016. The intention is to sustain the pace of intakes throughout 2017 at the levels required to allow Ireland to meets its current commitment of 1,089 within the timeframe envisaged by the Council decisions. A summary of arrivals to date is attached in Table A below.
The Deputy will also be aware that the Tánaiste returned on Tuesday evening from an official visit to Greece where she was accompanied for part of the visit by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, T.D. The purpose of the visit was to see at first hand the consequences of the migrant crisis, to hear about the issues from those directly involved and to discuss Ireland's role. The Tánaiste met with the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the Minister for Migration, Ioannis Mouzalas, the Minister of Interior, Panos Skourletis , senior Greek officials, UNHCR, UNICEF, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), MSF, Oxfam and a range of Greek NGO bodies involved in the migration crisis. She also visited two migrant camps in Athens, Eleonas and Skaramangas, and a centre for unaccompanied minors where she met volunteers, including Irish volunteers working in the camps, as well as migrants and children.
Table A: Arrivals in Ireland by Friday 16 December 2016
|IRPP Programme||Numbers admitted||Total No. of Adults||Total No. of Children||of which Children under 12|