A family of 10 fleeing Syria will be the first group of refugees relocated to Ireland under the current EU plans to address the migration crisis.
The mother and father and their eight young children are in Athens and will meet officials from the Department of Justice in the days ahead before their arrival in Ireland later this month.
The refugee protection programme taskforce met yesterday and discussed their arrival as well as the offer of 85 hotels and apartments which have been proposed as emergency centres for refugees being resettled here.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was told that the properties have been whittled down to 19 and will be visited in the next few weeks. The meeting was attended by HSE officials, gardaí, the Irish Red Cross, Department of Justice officials and the Office of Public Works.
It was agreed the Syrian family of 10 will be the first group of refugees to be relocated here, as part of EU plans to transfer 2,622 asylum seekers to Ireland who are in Greece and Italy fleeing conflicts.
Consideration is also expected to be given to transferring some from Sweden, given a recent announcement there that it would no longer accept asylum seekers. The numbers are separate from several hundred asylum seekers who will be brought here under a UN programme from refugee camps in Lebanon and elsewhere.
It is expected the Syrian parents and their young children will first be housed in the Hazel Hotel in Monasterevin, Kildare, before a decision on their status is made within 10 weeks.
A team of officials from the Department of Justice, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioners and gardaí will meet the Syrian family in Athens in the coming days. The family will then be brought here before Christmas or early in the new year, sources said.
Some 43 groups and businesses have offered 85 premises, including unused hotels, for more asylum seekers when they arrive here. However, only 19 are considered suitable.
Meanwhile, the International Protection Bill has passed through the Dáil. It will reduce the waiting times refugees face for their applications to be processed and bring Ireland into line with EU laws.
“The new system will provide applicants with a final decision on their status in a straightforward and timely fashion and reduce the length of time people are spending in direct provision,” said Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins voiced the concern of support and NGO groups, who have raised objections about the new legislation. Under the new scheme, there was a real possibility that it would lead to people in need of protection being refused that protection and being returned to countries where they are at risk, he claimed.
He also said the bill did not prioritise the best interests of children. “The current provision is contrary to Ireland’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child as it only extends to children once they have been granted a protection status,” he said.
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