Cabinet may hasten arrival of 200 migrant children

Efforts to resettle 200 refugee children here, from the camp in Calais, France, will be hastened by a proposal to Cabinet this week.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone will seek permission to give the children a special designation so their arrival complies with international regulations.

The minister, an independent, will also bring a memo to government seeking more funds for Tusla to cope with the migrant children.

The minister also hopes to set up a new agency, tasked with helping migrant children to settle in Ireland.

A legal framework is needed for the children, most of whom have fled from the war in Syria, to be resettled here, say government sources. The memo will ask that it be agreed that children coming from Calais be designated ‘programme refugees’.

They will then be afforded the same rights as other migrant children or refugees, who have come from camps in Greece or Italy.

Hundreds of children who were in the Calais camp have now been moved to different towns and villages around France, after authorities broke up the camp.

A Dáil debate last month heard calls for the Government to resettle some of those minors here.

That was agreed, but the logistics of how and when those children come to Ireland has still to be teased through.

The redesignation of the migrant children will also allow Ireland to accept them here, under UN rules.

However, Ms Zappone is also keen to ensure that Tusla is properly resourced, as it will be one of the lead agencies involved in ensuring the migrant children are properly settled.

It is unclear, yet, whether 200 children from the Calais camp will be resettled here. Government sources suggest the number may be lower.

The minister also wants to establish a permanent office to oversee the resettling of migrant children here. This national office would then get its own funding, say sources.

It could also include a specialised team, who would visit other camps, in Greece or elsewhere, and assess children or refugees who have applied to move here. The new body will also likely interview the refugee children from Calais who will be moved here, say sources.

The proposed new office comes after recent difficulties for gardai in getting permission to operate, or interview, refugees in Italy.

Authorities there have objected to the gardaí as a foreign force.

The Cabinet meeting this week is the last before Christmas.

The Seanad will also sit this week and debate the new rent-cap regulations, which passed through the Dáil late on Friday.

Once the rent regulations are approved by the Upper House, they are then expected to be signed into law by the President, Michael D Higgins, and to come into force before the new year.

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