Ireland ‘almost a laughing stock’ in dealing with migrants

State ‘miles behind’ with only ‘pathetic’ 311 of 4,000 refugees committed to taken in

Ireland is almost a "laughing stock" in relation to its response to dealing with migrants and refugees, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Head of advocacy at Oxfam Ireland Marissa Ryan said Ireland "has not even taken in the 4,000 that we said would through the refugee protection programme".

Ireland will co-chair a United Nations summit on migration in September but “we regret it’s very difficult to say that Ireland can or will play a leadership position”, Ms Ryan told the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs.

She paid tribute to Ireland's ambassador to the UN David Donoghue as a "very accomplished diplomat who is doing as good a job as he possibly can in very difficult circumstances".


But she said Ireland was asked to co-chair the UN negotiations because “migration is not specifically politically a sensitive issue here because we don’t receive a lot of migrants”, in part due to Ireland’s location.

A call was also made that the Taoiseach should attend the UN summit to show Ireland’s commitment to addressing the issue.

Fianna Fáil foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O’Brien said Ireland is “miles behind on its commitment” to take in refugees, with only 311 of 4,000 in the State.

“Those figures are pathetic,” he said. “We’ve gone past the stage of blaming processing in Greece and Italy.” He said Ireland could not be a leader as just part of the EU bloc which had “clearly allowed the diminution of asylum seekers’ rights”.

Record number

Oxfam Ireland chief executive Jim Clarken said nearly one per cent of the world's population are asylum seekers, refugees or migrants forcibly displaced in their own countries, the highest number in recorded history. Last year 24 people were displaced every minute "somewhere across the globe".

An unprecedented 65.3 million people across the world have been displaced and 40.8 million of them were internally displaced.

Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia make up one third of those displaced, he said, adding that the vast majority of those displaced are taking refuge in other developing countries.

Mr Clarken appealed for the State to use its influence at the summit with other countries. “We can’t continue to look away and present this as someone else’s problem.”

Chief executive of Dóchas Suzanne Keatinge called on the committee to ensure that political declarations at the summit reflect clear commitments to existing principles on refugees.

She said Ireland should keep its current commitment that funding was additional to and not contained within its existing commitments to overseas development. Not all countries followed Ireland’s example and they needed to stop placing conditions on allocations for humanitarian funding.

Dóchas is an umbrella organisation for more than 60 bodies including Christian Aid, Trócaire, Action Aid, Concern, Goal, World Vision Ireland and the Irish Red Cross.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times