Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Volker Türk, assistant high commissioner for protection of UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, said Ireland’s comprehensive response to refugees shows a level of commitment that is urgently needed from all countries.
Addressing the Institute of International and European Affairs, Mr Türk said Ireland’s willingness to engage on refugee issues, co-leading the process that led to the New York declaration, conducting search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean, and increasing commitments to resettlement should serve as an example to other countries.
“Refugees are an international responsibility, and all countries need to share this equitably,” said Mr Türk.
“The Irish people have a long history of advocating strongly for the fundamental rights of all human beings and they carry into the present, and future, a firm belief in the power of moral force to move mountains.”
As co-chair of the UN Refugee and Migrant process last year, Ireland was an instrumental force in the adoption, by 193 countries, of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It has also been a powerful voice for the implementation of the 2013 Sustainable Development Agenda which calls for leaving nobody, including refugees, behind.
Mr Türk later met Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald where they discussed progress on reforms of the protection system in Ireland as well as UNHCR priorities for discussions at EU level on reform of the Common European Asylum System.
Mr Türk said: “Ireland’s international engagement shows the power of all countries, no matter their size, to affect real change. In practical terms, Ireland has not been found wanting — it is supporting those developing and middle-income countries hosting the majority of the world’s refugees. It is also providing opportunities for some of the most vulnerable refugees to be resettled out of precarious situations so they build a future for themselves and their families. Ireland is now resettling 520 refugees a year, a figure we strongly encourage the authorities to maintain into the future.”
He added, however, that in light of recent limitations introduced on family reunification, it will be important for Ireland to consider new pathways for refugees to find safety. “Ireland’s history of flight and migration puts it in a unique position to remind the world that refugees are an international responsibility,” he said.