Ireland to take Libyan refugees, says Lynch


THE GOVERNMENT yesterday announced that it would take 24 refugees from war-torn Libya, a number it said was the most that could be expected given Ireland’s economic circumstance.

Acknowledging that the figure is “very small”, Minister of State for Equality Kathleen Lynch said: “We believe it’s a very good and worthwhile gesture in the circumstances. There are other countries with far greater resources than us who will be taking less.”

Ireland is joining Sweden which has promised to take 200 refugees, Finland (100), Portugal (30) and Belgium (25).

Ms Lynch said she hoped Ireland’s gesture would encourage others to commit as well.

The 24 will be among those refugees already cleared by the UN Refugee Agency, meaning that they are likely to arrive in Ireland soon, although it is unclear exactly when. It is also uncertain what nationality they will be as about 250,000 people fleeing the fighting are from other African countries.

A Department of Justice official will be sent to holding camps in Europe to ensure the “best match” is made. According to Ms Lynch, this means families, which are easier to integrate, and those who express an interest in coming to Ireland.

More refugees from northern Africa could be taken later this year. Under a resettlement agreement with the UN, Ireland takes up to 200 refugees each year. Last year, 20 refugees were resettled here and 955 since 2000.

Ms Lynch was in Brussels for wider discussions on how the EU should manage migration flows, which have surged in the wake of uprisings in northern Africa.

The thousands of migrants arriving in Italy and Malta have highlighted the fragile trust-based nature of the 1995 Schengen Agreement that allows for passport-free travel in 25 European countries.

A Franco-Italian disagreement over the fate of migrants led both countries to call on the European Commission to make it easier to reinstate border controls.

Yesterday EU commissioner for home affairs Cecilia Malmströom promised to keep the Schengen Agreement – Ireland and Britain do not participate – intact.

“We have to defend and preserve it,” she said but added that certain “specific loopholes” have to be closed.

International arrest warrant may be issued for Gadafy

ITALY’S FOREIGN minister said yesterday he expects the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Muammar Gadafy at the end of the month, following the first public appearance of the Libyan leader after the death of his son.

Franco Frattini said that would be a “key moment” in the Libya crisis, suggesting that after the warrant is issued it would be impossible for Col Gadafy to agree to an exile: “From that moment on an exit from power or from the country will no longer be imaginable” because “after the arrest warrant is issued, all the international community would have legal obligations”.