Half of 4,000 refugees Ireland agreed to take in 2015 have arrived
Some 96 people living with families who offered accommodation at height of migrant crisis
A Syrian refugee sits on a street in Beirut, Lebanon, Photograph: Wael Hamzeh/EPA
Just under 2,000 of the 4,000 mainly Syrian refugees that Ireland in 2015 agreed to accept as a response to the migration crisis in central and southern Europe have arrived.
Ninety-six of them are living with members of the public in 11 counties who offered to provide accommodation to refugees during the height of the crisis, the Dáil heard on Friday.
Three years ago, the State agreed to accept up to 4,000 refugees over a period of time under two different programmes, one a UN refugee resettlement project focused on Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and the second an EU relocation operation based on asylum seekers in Greece and Italy.
Minister of State for Immigration David Stanton said 928 refugees of the 1,040 Ireland agreed to accept under the UN programme are in the State and 875 of them are Syrian. He said that a further 113 refugees are due in Ireland in mid-December.
The Italian part of the programme involved 600 people and the Government agreed to accept more under the UN resettlement programme.
Some 945 refugees from Lebanon or Jordan are expected next year.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon who were selected in June this year are expected to arrive early next year.
A further 213 refugees in Lebanon were selected in October and will also arrive during 2019. Mr Stanton said that their selection completed Ireland’s pledge to the EU for 2018.
The Government also agreed to accept 2,066 asylum seekers through the EU relocation programme from Greece and Italy. A total of 1,022 people, 959 of them Syrian, arrived from Greece.
A programme with Italian authorities did not work out because “the Italians would not allow us to carry out security checks on their territory”, the Minister said. “We tried hard but were not successful.”
Overall 1,594 refugees, mainly Syrian but also including Palestinians and Iraqis, have been housed by local authorities. That number includes children born in Ireland.
The Red Cross facilitated accommodation by member of the public of the other 96 people, most of whom are single individuals because few accommodation options were available for this cohort through local authorities.
As of November 27th, 287 Syrians including Irish-born children were living in “emergency response and orientation centres”.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who expressed concern about the integration of refugees and asylum-seekers , said it was a crucial issue.
He said that even though there is a housing crisis in Ireland it was critically important once people arrived in Ireland that they were not held in long-term hotel or other emergency accommodation, but were settled in houses.
The Dublin Bay South TD, who has raised the issue in the Dáil, said there was urgency needed in getting assimilation into the education system for both children and adults, and getting people into proper accommodation and into work to ensure they integrate well.
When he raised the issue in the Dáil, Mr Stanton, who also has responsibility for integration, said that 85 per cent of refugees have been accommodated in local authority housing.
He said that much focus was given to integration. “Communities are welcoming Syrian refugees throughout the country and that is of benefit.”
Once a family is resettled “an implementing partner procured by the local authority, provides appropriate services for a period of 12 to 18 months”, Mr Stanton said, adding that the standard model was for 18 months.
It included a high level of coordination between various agencies including Government departments, the HSE, the Child and Family Agency Tusla and local authorities.
The Minister who last week visited Donegal, met a number of Syrian families. “Children are going to school and parents are learning English and working. A lot is happening.”