Ministers met with Filippo Grandi this morning as part of his two-day visit to Ireland
Ministers outlined the State’s very positive working relationship with UNHCR Ireland
Discussed the importance of new resettlement pathways for refugees
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, and his colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton TD, met this morning with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi. The meeting was organised as part of his two-day visit to Ireland, which also includes meetings with the President, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Ministers and the High Commissioner discussed the global plight of refugees and Ireland’s ongoing response to this humanitarian crisis.
Speaking after the meeting, Minister Flanagan said:
There are now more than 70 million people globally who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and who are in need of protection. After speaking with High Commissioner Grandi this morning I am more convinced than ever of the continuing need for our Irish Refugee Protection Programme and for countries, like Ireland, to put in place additional pathways for refugee admission to ensure we are reaching and supporting those who are most vulnerable.
In addition to our national resettlement programme, which has operated since 2000, Ireland has recently launched two innovative refugee admission programmes under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme – the Community Sponsorship Ireland (CSI) initiative and the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme (IHAP).
Minister Stanton explained what is unique about the Community Sponsorship Initiative:
Our Community Sponsorship initiative is a complementary resettlement stream to the traditional state-centred model. Developed and implemented with support from UNHCR Ireland and the NGO sector, it encourages groups within a community to come together as a Community Sponsorship Group with the aim of supporting arriving refugees. These community groups assist families in accessing services and provide the supports and friendship necessary to enable these families fleeing their homes to find a safe and welcoming refuge in their community. To date, under the pilot phase of the initiative, four communities are hosting a refugee family and a number of other communities located throughout the country are at various stages of the application process to become a Community Sponsorship Group. The initiative is a prime example of how refugee supports and integration measures can be implemented hand-in-hand to achieve the best outcomes for the refugees themselves and for their new communities.
Minister Flanagan is using his discretionary powers in the immigration area to provide new admission pathways for family members of refugees and Irish citizens from refugee producing countries under the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme (IHAP). Minister Flanagan said:
Under the IHAP, I am prioritising vulnerable family members from the top ten refugee-producing countries as identified by UNHCR and providing them with an opportunity to join their families who are already living in Ireland. We are providing places for up to 530 family members. Since the programme was launched last summer, 166 family members have been granted permissions, of whom 99 have already arrived in the State. I expect this number to increase now that we are examining the second round of proposals received. UNHCR is actively involved in the delivery of the programme and has provided valuable expertise to my officials at each stage of the process.
The Ministers and the High Commissioner also discussed the important role, which UNHCR plays in the international protection process in Ireland. The processes in the International Protection Office and the International Protection Appeals Tribunal have been designed with input from the UNHCR and both offices are independent in the performance of their international protection functions.
The Ministers also took the opportunity to highlight the work underway in the Department to continue to improve the reception system for international protection applicants including through the introduction of agreed Standards for accommodation centres. These Standards have been developed with the support of UNHCR Ireland as part of a Standards Advisory Group convened by Minister Stanton and will be launched shortly.
At the meeting, the Ministers confirmed their commitment to ensuring that emergency accommodation for applicants in hotels and guesthouses is used for as short a time as possible while we wait for new accommodation centres to come on stream from the ongoing regional procurement process. The use of such accommodation naturally incurs additional costs to the State with expenditure this year likely to reach or even exceed €120 million.
Ministers noted that Ireland has agreed to assume the Chair of UNHCR Syria Core Group on Resettlement, a multilateral engagement by some 30 governments who seek to find protections in third countries for Syrian refugees. They welcomed ongoing discussions with the Swedish government about joint working groups on refugee protection.
Finally, the Ministers and High Commissioner Grandi offered their best wishes to the team from the Department who will be travelling to Jordan next week as part of a selection mission for approximately 300 more refugees to be admitted under the IRPP.
Notes for Editors:
- The Government established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) in September 2015 as part of the State’s humanitarian response to the migration crisis in Southern Europe. The State agreed to accept up to 4,000 asylum seekers and refugees overall into Ireland under relocation and resettlement programmes at the earliest time possible.
- By the end of the two-year EU Relocation Programme in September 2017, 37,000 asylum seekers were eligible and registered for relocation in Italy and Greece, of which 78% (approximately 29,000) had been relocated to other EU Member States including Ireland.
- Ireland relocated 1,022 asylum seekers (mainly Syrians) from Greece and to date, since 2015, has resettled 1,332 refugees from Lebanon and Jordan under the UNHCR-led resettlement programme.
- To address the balance of the 4,000 people under the IRPP, additional resettlement pledges were made for 2018 and 2019 and the Ministers announced the establishment of a new Humanitarian Admission Programme (IHAP) and the Community Sponsorship Ireland initiative.
IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme
- The IHAP programme provides a new humanitarian pathway for eligible family members coming from the world’s top ten major source countries of refugees, as detailed in the UNHCR Global Trends Report, to join their families in Ireland.
- This humanitarian admission programme will operate under the Minister’s discretionary powers and is expected to provide for the reunification of more than 500 vulnerable family members over the next two years.
- To allow the maximum number of families to benefit from the scheme proposers will be asked to prioritise a small number of family members for admission.
- To minimise the impact on an already strained national housing supply, priority may be given to sponsors who can meet the accommodation requirements of eligible family members.
- A pilot Community Sponsorship (CS) project commenced in December 2018 with the arrival of a Syrian family to Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath. It is expected that up to 10 refugee families will arrive in Ireland under the pilot phase of this support mechanism (resettling 50 refugees). To date, four families have arrived.
- Community Sponsorship Ireland (CSI) is a complimentary resettlement stream to the traditional state-centred model. The initial pilot model seeks to enable groups within a community to come together to support arriving refugees under a Community Sponsorship Group (CSG).
- Once the CSG has come together, they submit a detailed plan of proposed supports outlining how the group will provide the necessary supports for the refugee family following their arrival and for a period of up to two years. The group undergoes a matching and vetting process to link them with a support organisation and a refugee family. The group undertakes to source accommodation, introduce the family to services locally and give a broad based system of support.