Ireland should take in 22,000 refugees, say agencies

Group of 21 NGOs calls on State to ‘show leadership’ by lifting Dublin Convention

Migrants and refugees queue at a camp to be register after crossing the Macedonian-Greek border near Gevgelija. Photograph: Getty Images

Migrants and refugees queue at a camp to be register after crossing the Macedonian-Greek border near Gevgelija. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Ireland should increase its intake of refugees under relocation and resettlement schemes to 22,000, according to a report to be published on Sunday.

In September the Government committed to receiving 4,000 people through its new Refugee Protection Programme, but it emerged last week that the first group of 20-30 people to come to Ireland from Greece or Italy will not arrive until next year.

More than 100 refugees have arrived so far this year under a separate, long-standing resettlement scheme.

In the report on Ireland’s handling of migration and integration, a coalition of 21 NGOs, including Oxfam Ireland and Trócaire, says the Government should increase the number of refugees it takes in under resettlement and relocation schemes to 22,000.

Edel McGinley, director of the Migrant Rights Centre, another of the organisations behind the report, said it was “disappointing and disheartening” to see the Government “fall short of its commitment” to welcome 4,000 people who were fleeing war and poverty.

Unacceptable

The report says the Government should relax the process by which refugees’ family members can join them here.

It calls for Ireland to “show leadership” by suspending the so-called Dublin Convention with Italy, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia – states that have received large numbers of asylum seekers and other migrants this year. The convention, which determines the EU state responsible for assessing an asylum seeker’s application for protection, usually assigns responsibility to the state where they first entered the EU, placing a heavy burden on border countries.

The report, whose authors also include Christian Aid, the Refugee Council and the Immigrant Council, warns that a “hierarchical” protection system is emerging in Ireland.

Older system

“A critical, long-standing issue is the institutionalisation of asylum seekers through the direct provision system, which is likely to be repeated in the new [Refugee Protection Programme] centres,” the report states.

On the protection system, the report points out that most of the 173 recommendations made by an official working group in June have not been acted upon. It argues that the International Protection Bill, published last month, falls short of international best practice.

The report calls for humanitarian visas that could be issued at embassies and consulates, enabling vulnerable people to enter the EU legally and eliminating the risk of abuse by smugglers and traffickers. It also says naval rescue missions in the Mediterranean should continue throughout the winter.

“We have reports from our partners of small children suffering from trench foot in camps within the EU because of the inadequate response of our leaders.

“On entering Europe, people are now being met with police brutality, dogs and barbed wire. This cannot continue,” said Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s chief executive.