Tusla chief warns over transfer of 200 minors from Calais

The head of the Child and Family Agency has warned that transferring 200 unaccompanied minors from Calais to Ireland in “one fell swoop” would present practical difficulties.

Tusla chief executive Fred McBride said while they had developed a “bank of experience” in dealing with unaccompanied minors over the past 15 years, it was more on the scale of 100 referrals a year rather than 200 overnight.

Some of the children had “very challenging issues” he said, and even though the proposal to accept children here from the French port town was well-intentioned, “there are some real challenges in trying to bring in so many at one time”, he said.

Mr McBride, who was speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Seán O’Rourke show, said he was due to meet with Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone today to discuss the issue. The matter was discussed at Cabinet yesterday.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil Foreign Affairs spokesperson Darragh O’Brien added his voice to the call for the Government to notify French authorities of its willingness to accept unaccompanied minors from the camp known as the Jungle which was demolished over the weekend.

Speaking ahead of statements on the issue in the Dáil today, Mr O’Brien said the children were “exceptionally vulnerable” and that Ireland should accommodate them on humanitarian grounds.

However, it was imperative appropriate procedures were followed because children in the Calais camp “do not fall under the various resettlement and relocation programmes that Ireland has agreed to”, he said.

Mr O’Brien’s comments echo those of Fine Gael MEP for Dublin, Brian Hayes, who said he agreed with Government chief whip Regina Doherty it was a “no-brainer” to relocate 200 unaccompanied children here.

A cross-party Opposition motion calling for the “immediate” relocation of 200 of the children from the makeshift camp is due to be debated in the Dáil today.

A park of specially adapted shipping containers near the Jungle is being used to house upwards of 1,000 unaccompanied children, some as young as six, whose fate is in the hands of the French and British authorities.

Calls to bring 200 of them here are being spearheaded by the Not On Our Watch campaign and supported by the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

A vigil supporting the relocation of unaccompanied children here from Calais takes place outside the Dáil at 7pm tomorrow.

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