Government taking 300 more Syrian refugees, says Kenny

Praise for LÉ Eithne over rescue of almost 1,200 migrants from Mediterranean Sea

Crews from the LÉ Eithne rescuing migrants from a small craft in the Mediterranean at the weekend. Photograph: Irish Defence Forces /PA Wire

Crews from the LÉ Eithne rescuing migrants from a small craft in the Mediterranean at the weekend. Photograph: Irish Defence Forces /PA Wire

 

The Government has agreed to take a further 300 Syrian refugees in the ongoing crisis, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil.

Mr Kenny said the Cabinet had on Tuesday morning agreed to accept the additional group of refugees, following a recent decision to accept 220 refugees.

He said the Government had contributed over €41 million in humanitarian aid to the crisis in Syria.

“We have taken 128 Syrian refugees under the UNHCR resettlement programme,” he added.

“We’ve already agreed to take another 220 in 2015-2016. And Minister [Frances] Fitzgerald proposed for Government approval for an additional 300 refugees for resettlement in 2015-2016 also.”

Humanitarian admission

The Government’s Syrian humanitarian admission programme offers “temporary Irish residence to vulnerable persons from Syria or who have fled Syria to surrounding countries since the outbreak of the war in Syria”, with family members who reside in Ireland.

Earlier, tribute was paid in the Dáil to the crew of the LÉ Eithne in the Mediterranean, which has rescued just under 1,200 people during its current operation. The Naval vessel is operating between Sicily and Libya.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said the vessel’s deployment “caused a few eyebrows to be raised at the time because this is the first overseas mission for the Naval Service”.

‘Very worthy’

He said, however, that most people would now accept it had been a “very worthy mission and decision.

“Just under 1,200 people have been rescued from boats, some of which were sinking, others had run out of fuel, and others - which had men, women, children and infants on board - had no water or food left.”

Mr Coveney added: “Cmdr Pearse O’Donnell and his crew on the LÉ Eithne are doing an extraordinarily professional and compassionate job in the Mediterranean, and I want to put that on the record of the House.

“I thank them for the work they are doing on behalf of everybody here.”