The public are being assured they will get to play their part in welcoming refugees as the Government prepares to make formal commitments to the EU on the country’s intake today.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will tell a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels that Ireland will take 3,500 of the 160,000 people stuck in makeshift camps mainly in Greece, Italy, and Hungary after their flight from Syria and other conflict countries. That is on top of the 520 coming from United Nations camps outside Europe.
The meeting will hear from the EU’s border management body, Frontex; Europol, the United Nations refugee agency, and other agencies on the latest situation in the camps both in Europe and bordering Syria, and on forecasts of the numbers likely to continue to try to make their way into Europe in the months ahead.
Here, the Irish Red Cross is anticipating that while the approaching winter will reduce the numbers making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, people will try other routes instead.
“A huge drop is anticipated in the numbers coming across the Mediterranean in boats as the weather turns and Greece will soon start to see a drop-off,” said spokesman, Paul Anderson.
“But the expectation is that people will keep coming and will try different routes, either by land or looking for shorter sea hops.”
Crossing the Black Sea is one option, although it would land refugees in Bulgaria or Romania which they are keen to avoid, and there are short sea crossings into Italy and Spain if they were able to make the long overland journey to North Africa.
The Irish Red Cross has been tasked by the Government to co-ordinate offers of help from the public and is gearing up the 5,000 members of its 100 local units and branches to assist.
Last Friday alone, on its first full day on the job, its head office received 40 direct offers of voluntary services, including from teachers, doctors, and a psychotherapist, as well as 20 fundraising proposals and 200 bed offers.
While the Department of Justice is looking for large premises such as hotels and guesthouses for the initial period of the refugees’ stay here, it said public offers would be collated and considered for the longer term.
The department, which is preparing for the first meeting of the Irish Refugee Programme Task Force tomorrow, said: “A major issue to be agreed at this meeting will be how best to quickly engage with the generous responses by the broader community and individuals as well as NGO and religious organisations to this crisis.”
Some 15,000 beds for incoming refugees have already been pledged through the Uplift social media campaign and communities all over the country have been fundraising and gathering clothes, medicines, and other essentials to be sent to refugees in both official and unofficial camps abroad.
The Irish Red Cross hotline for financial donations is 1850 507070. Other pledges can be made to 01-6424600 or email@example.com
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved