Ireland takes less than half of refugees from war zones it committed to accept

Ireland takes less than half of refugees from war zones it committed to accept
Refugees at the Greek border in 2015.

Ireland has taken less than half of the refugees from war zones it has committed to accept, official figures show.

The Government has refused to take any of its allocation from Italy after the authorities there turned down requests for gardaí to conduct security assessments of refugees on Italian soil.

These interviews and assessments are aimed at screening anyone for extremist or terrorist links from being accepted and allowed into the country.

The Oireachtas Justice Committee also heard that 184 asylum seekers are housed in emergency accommodation provided by business people who block book hotel rooms – a practice which the chairman and other members raised serious concerns about.

Speaking at the committee, Minister of State at the Department of Justice David Stanton said that under European Union Council decisions in 2015 Ireland committed to accepting 2,622 persons into the state.

These include 1,089 people from refugee camps in Greece, 623 from Italy and 910 described as unallocated.

“To date, 1,022 persons have been safely been relocated to Ireland from Greece,” Mr Stanton told the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

He said that Ireland has also been operating a separate programme for resettlement, under which 925 have been resettled, typically from camps in Lebanon.

He said the people have come from Syria, Eritrea and Iraq.

Mr Stanton said Ireland was “unable” to keep commitments to relocate asylum seekers from Italy.

This was because “no agreement could be reached on security arrangements to be undertaken by Ireland on Italian soil”.

He said this meant that €4.14 million of European Commission monies under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund was unspent – and was seeking the committee's approval to “opt-in” to an EU protocol that would ensure the money would not be lost.

He said gardaí had conducted similar security assessments in Greece and Lebanon and said they had worked “very well”.

He said the purpose was to ensure that “if someone is there that shouldn't come here” and that the Government didn't want to allow someone in and “something happen”.

Committee chair Caoimghín Ó Caoláin said he was “deeply concerned” at the practice of business people block booking hotels to provide accommodation for asylum seekers, saying these people were “seeking business opportunity” and that their motivation was “questionable”.

He knew of one such hotel where almost 80 people were accommodated. The chair also said that if any issues arise that the business person is the “go to person”.

Minister Stanton said the Government's big concern was that, where Direct Provision centres were full, people were not sleeping on the street and that emergency accommodation was used on a B&B basis in those situations – and that 184 people were so housed on December 2.

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