Just 323 migrants and refugees who made the precarious Mediterranean crossing to Italy or Greece, have arrived here so far. Another 80 are being interviewed in Athens, and are expected to arrive shortly.
Ireland agreed to take in 2,662 refugees from Italy and Greece following European Council decisions to help Italy and Greece, who were overwhelmed by migrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa since 2015.
Up to 1,089 of asylum seekers were to be taken from Greece and 623 from Italy, with a decision yet to be made about from which country the remaining 910 will come.
But no migrants have transferred from Italy to Ireland yet because of the bureaucratic logjam.
According to Immigration Minister David Stanton, “in the case of Italy, serious difficulties persist as the Italian authorities have taken a position that they will not allow security assessments on Italian soil by An Garda Siochána of applicants for re-location.
“There have been several attempts to resolve this issue including a bi-lateral intervention by Italian counterpart. Efforts continue to resolve this matter and I remain hopeful that a solution can be found,” the East Cork TD said in response to a parliamentary question from Kildare South Fianna Fáil TD, Fiona O’Loughlin.
A Garda spokesman was unavailable for comment.
To date, 239 asylum seekers, mostly families, who crossed the Mediterranean to get to Greece, have been taken in here.
Another 84 have been cleared to travel from Greece and arrangements for their transportation are being made by the Irish Refugee Protection Programme which includes officials from the Department of Justice, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, gardaí and agencies such as the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, when necessary.
The Department of Justice has said it should meet its commitment to take 1,089 people from Greece by the end of the year.
“The intention is to sustain the pace of intakes throughout 2017 at the levels required to allow Ireland to meet is current commitment within the timeframe envisaged by the council decisions,” said Mr Stanton.
Ireland also made commitments to take in Syrian refugees from camps in Jordan and Lebanon under the UNHCR-led refugee resettlement programme.
Already, under this scheme, 519 Syrian migrants, out of an allocated 520, have come to Ireland from these camps. These refugees have all travelled ahead of deadline.
The Government also agreed to take in an extra 520 refugees from Lebanon this year.
Up to 260 of these people have already been chosen following a selection mission in October and are due to arrive this Spring.
The remaining 260 will be selected in the coming months.
New act to speed up asylum process
Asylumseekers should spend less time surviving on €18 per week in direct provision waiting for their applications to be processed because of the enactment in the past week of the International Protection Act, according to the Department of Justice.
According to Minister for State David Stanton, the act, enacted on December 31, will lead to the “introduction of a single application procedure” for asylumseekers whereas under the previous act, the process was “multi-layered” and more cumbersome.
Mr Stanton said the act responds to 26 of the 173 recommendations made in the McMahon Report, the landmark review published by the first-ever working group on improvements to the asylum and refugee process.
However, the new act does not include McMahon’s recommendation that asylumseekers, once certain conditions have been met, should be allowed to work.
The group recommended that once the new single application procedure was working efficiently, an asylum seeker who had been waiting nine months for a “first-instance decision” and has co-operated with the protection process, should be allowed to seek work. Ireland opted out of a reworked EU council directive in 2013 allowing asylumseekers to work one year after making their application for asylum.
In response to a parliamentary question from Independent TD Catherine Connolly, Mr Stanton said: “There is an effective visa and immigration system in place for those who wish to lawfully migrate to the State for employment purposes. The key concern is that the asylum process and the wider immigration system would be undermined by giving people who secure entry to the State, on foot of claims to asylum yet to be determined, the same access to employment as legal immigrants who follow the lawful route to employment.”