Ireland to narrowly miss target to relocate 600 asylum seekers

State has performed well compared with other EU countries, Amnesty says

Amnesty executive director Colm O’Gorman urged Ministers to press for a fairer and more effective solution to Europe’s refugee crisis. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Amnesty executive director Colm O’Gorman urged Ministers to press for a fairer and more effective solution to Europe’s refugee crisis. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Ireland is set to narrowly miss out on its pledge to relocate 600 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy within two years under a scheme agreed with European Union member states.

However, Amnesty International Ireland has pointed out that the country has performed relatively well in settling 552 asylum seekers over the past two years, or 92 per cent of its legal commitment, compared with most EU countries.

To date, it says EU member states have fulfilled less than a third of their asylum relocation promises.

Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty’s executive director, said: “Two years after this scheme was agreed, most EU member states have fundamentally failed refugees and asylum seekers, shirking their responsibilities and leaving thousands abandoned in Italy and Greece.”

He acknowledged the Government’s assertions that delays were not on the Irish end and he urged Ministers to press for a fairer and more effective solution to Europe’s refugee crisis.

European court

“Other EU countries must step up and make good on the promises they made, or risk being taken to the European court and potentially facing tough penalties,” Mr O’Gorman said.

According to Amnesty, Poland and Hungary – who both refused to accept any asylum seekers from Italy and Greece – have the worst records.

Slovakia, which unsuccessfully challenged the relocation scheme in the European Court of Justice, has accepted just 16 of the 902 asylum seekers it was assigned, while the Czech Republic has relocated 12 of 2,691. Spain has fulfilled just 14 per cent of its quota.

Malta is the only EU country that has fulfilled its quota. Norway and Liechtenstein, who opted in to the scheme voluntarily, have both fulfilled their commitments to relocate 1,500 and 10 asylum seekers, respectively.

Finland has also performed well, welcoming 1,951 asylum seekers, or 94 per cent of its legal commitment.

While the Government initially pledged to accept 600 asylum seekers, it has since gone on to raise this number to 4,000 under an expanded refugee protection programme involving the EU and UNHCR.

Amnesty has welcomed these moves and the Government’s commitment to establish a community sponsorship programme for refugees.

Mr O’Gorman said this model has been enormously successful in Canada and a number of other countries – such as the UK, Argentina and New Zealand – are beginning to develop similar programmes.

“During a visit to Canada earlier this year, I saw the community sponsorship programme in action. I saw communities coming together with a fantastic sense of purpose to support refugees as they settled into their new lives.

“The programme delivers really positive outcomes for refugees, as well as strengthening, deepening and enriching host communities. People in Ireland have been very generous in their support and solidarity with people forced to flee their homes.

Mr O’Gorman added: “Ireland is a welcoming country; a programme like this allows us to extend a welcome to those who desperately need our support.”