Government approves plan to bring 4,000 refugees to Ireland

Government approves plan to bring 4,000 refugees to Ireland

Ireland is to accept at least 2,900 more refugees and migrants fleeing to Europe’s borders.

The increase takes the total to about 4,000 with a series of reception and accommodation centres to be opened around the country over the coming weeks.

Priority is to be given to unaccompanied minors, the Government said, with family reunification also a key plank of the emergency response, which will ultimately add to the initial commitment.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said special arrangements are being put in place to care for children who arrive without parents, guardians or relatives.

“Ireland has always lived up to its international humanitarian obligation and we are fully committed to playing our part in addressing the migration crisis facing Europe,” she said.

“We have all been shocked and upset at the scenes witnessed in southern and central Europe and the distressing scenes during rescues in the Mediterranean. It is only right that we do all we can as a nation to help.

“Under the new programme agreed today, Ireland will offer a welcome safe haven for families and children who have been forced to leave their homes due to war and conflict.”

The resettlement programme is part of European Commission plans to move 160,000 refugees and migrants around the continent from Italy, Greece and Hungary.

A record half a million people have sought asylum in the EU so far this year with Germany receiving nearly half of applications.

The total figure to be accepted at Irish shores will be made up of 600 who were promised refuge several weeks ago as the crisis escalated, 520 people being resettled here under a previous agreement and an additional 2,900 agreed by the cabinet at a special meeting.

Ms Fitzgerald said it is expected that the refugees will begin arriving in groups of 50-100 within weeks, with further groups expected in the run-up to Christmas and into the new year.

It has been estimated to cost E12m a year for every 1,000 refugees taken in.

The Government has called on the European Commission to clarify how funds will be allocated to meet the costs.

The initiative has been called the Irish Refugee Protection Programme and it will include the creation of a series of reception, orientation and accommodation centres around the country.

Housing units have been offered by the Defence Forces while the Office of Public Works is carrying out an audit of vacant and suitable state-owned buildings.

Other offers of accommodation have been made by voluntary groups, NGOs, charities and religious organisations.

The Irish Red Cross is to be given a key role in preparing the centres for the arrival of refugees.

“I have been clear that we must do all we can to harness the potential of these generous offers,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Two other initiatives being run under the Government crisis response include English classes and integration schemes for refugees with the entire programme overseen by a cabinet committee on social policy involving officials from several government departments. It will hold its first meeting in coming days.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “We will put in place all the necessary supports to ensure that those coming to Ireland can integrate as well as helping them to overcome any trauma they endured on having to flee their home countries.”

On the security front, gardai have been asked to liaise with EU and international policing bodies to ensure that appropriate vetting arrangements are put in place for all new arrivals.

Everyone accepted into Ireland under the programme will be subject to biometric checks including fingerprinting, the Government said.

Elsewhere, Ms Fitzgerald committed to clearing the backlog of asylum cases in Ireland.

She said new legislation to deal with the controversial use of direct provision centres for people seeking refuge and the ban on the right to work, welfare and education will be introduced in the coming weeks.

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