'Four children isn't enough' as Government urged to accept 400 refugees who fled Lesbos  fire

'Four children isn't enough' as Government urged to accept 400 refugees who fled Lesbos  fire

A woman holds her child after thousands of refugees fled a devastating fire at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos. Picture: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images)

Opposition parties have joined calls for Ireland to accept 400 refugees following a devastating fire at a camp in Greece.

The 400 Welcomes campaign is urging the Government to take the refugees after a fire at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos forced thousands of its inhabitants to flee. 

The camp, which had been placed under Covid-19 lockdown, was destroyed, leaving 12,000 refugees in need of emergency shelter.

The Government here has pledged to take four children from the camp, but the 400 Welcomes campaign wants 100 times that number to be brought to Ireland.

The campaign, which is run by a group of Irish women from across NGOs, arts, medicine and social work, says that the number is not too great an ask.

Claire Dunne, an Irish doctor based in Lesbos said: “The health, both physical and mental, of the vulnerable people that I treat is made much worse by the cruel conditions of the refugee camps in which they’re living. Thousands of people suffer in the camps, losing their futures and childhoods. 

A new Moria camp must not be built on the ashes of the old. 

"We are calling on the Irish Government to be both brave and kind and to relocate 400 women, men and children.”

Sinn Féin, the Labour Party and the Social Democrats, as well as a number of independent TDs and senators, raised the issue in the Dáil and Seanad, with Labour's Ivana Bacik saying that four was "simply inadequate".

Social Democrat TD Cian O'Callaghan said: "There is a much greater need than that and I believe there is strong will from the Irish people. 

"We have a proud history in supporting people in need in different countries and we can do much better than bringing four children here. I strongly urge the minister to do what he can on that."

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said that he was "deeply saddened" by the situation and said the Government would continue to assess what it could do to.

Mr Coveney said: "We in Ireland are endeavouring to do our part, having already received 1,022 asylum seekers (including six unaccompanied minors) from Greece under the first phase of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. We have also committed to accept 36 unaccompanied minors in need of international protection in Greece, and I was pleased that the first group of eight such minors arrived in Ireland last June. 

"In the context of the very difficult situation now arising from the destruction of the Moria refugee camp, the Government has decided to accept another group of four unaccompanied minors, as part of this overall commitment, and is continuing to keep under review what further actions it can take to meet the enormous humanitarian and relocation needs arising from this tragic event."

In a statement released this evening from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Roderic O'Gorman said he wants to do more to aid unaccompanied minors. 

"Minister O’Gorman believes Ireland needs to do more.

"Therefore, the Minister is working with Tusla to identify additional capacity in the short term to take more unaccompanied minors. 

"Significantly, he will also be seeking additional resources, in the context of Budget 2021, to meet our commitments to the transfer of unaccompanied children in Greece to Ireland as quickly as possible," the statement said. 

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