Syrian child refugees to be resettled in State ‘as soon as they can travel safely’

Social workers and gardaí due to travel to Greece this week but trip date not confirmed

Social workers and members of An Garda Síochána are due to travel to Greece in the next week to relocate unaccompanied child refugees of the Syrian war to Ireland.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said last week he hoped to send a group from Tusla, the child and family agency, and the Garda to Greece to begin the process of bringing 14 unaccompanied minors to Ireland this week.

In a statement at the weekend the Department of Children declined to give a definite date for travel but said “Tusla social workers are ready to travel to Greece as soon as a mission can be safely arranged”.

“Due to necessary quarantine restrictions, a mission will now take 11 days, which includes travel time, quarantine, and assessments.”

Tusla is “ready to receive these children as soon as they can travel safely”.

Following a fire which devastated the Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos in September, the Minister said 28 unaccompanied children would be relocated to Ireland.

Mr O’Gorman said “we brought over a group of 165 Syrian refugees from camps around Beirut in Lebanon in November”.

Delays

Fourteen of the 28 unaccompanied refugee children had been identified but “there was a significant issue on the EU side”.

“The EU changed the manner in which it was deciding who could qualify as an unaccompanied minor to be taken by member states,” and that caused delays. And no travel was permitted at the highest levels of restrictions.

“Tusla officials will be going over to Greece in the next week to, we hope, bring over 14 identified unaccompanied minors,” he said.

“Level 5 has meant that there have been major restrictions on our ability to engage in terms of unaccompanied minors or the wider Irish refugee protection programme.”

Social Democrats spokeswoman on children Jennifer Whitmore said at the weekend that "we can't allow any further delays to happen. We need to resettle those children and give them the supports they need".

The Minister has also introduced a new specialist fostering programme for refugee children “who need support to deal with trauma from their experiences, health issues and re-engagement with education”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times

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