Process of bringing 200 child migrants from France begins

Tánaiste says most will be unaccompanied boys from Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald: met French interior minister Bruno Le Roux at  EU justice meeting. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald: met French interior minister Bruno Le Roux at EU justice meeting. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Irish officials will travel to France in the coming weeks to begin the process of transferring up to 200 unaccompanied minors to Ireland, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed.

The Minister for Justice held a bilateral meeting with French interior minister Bruno Le Roux in Brussels on Friday on the fringes of an EU justice meeting.

“I met with Minister Le Roux to explain to him the motion that was passed in the Dáil and look at the logistical issues around it. Clearly we are now entering preparation phase, and then there’ll be a delivery phase,” she said. “We have agreed that our officials will meet before Christmas to assess the situation.”

Ms Fitzgerald said most of the minors would be unaccompanied young men between the ages of 16 and 18 from Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea.

“They are currently in centres throughout France,” she said. “The minister has confirmed to me that his ministers will begin to identify young people who would be suitable to come to Ireland and who would want to come to Ireland, because we don’t want people coming into the system and then disappearing, something that can happen with this age group.”

She said Minister for Children Katherine Zappone was currently in discussions with Tulsa, the Child and Family Agency, about establishing the necessary legal channels.

‘Life chances’

“During my discussion with Minister Le Roux, he stressed the need to focus on life chances, helping these young people to integrate, get back to education. This is a very challenging group to work with, many of them will have spent some months in Calais, ” she said.

The Dáil last month passed an all-party motion committing Ireland to accepting 200 children from France, following the dismantling of the refugee camp at known as the Calais “Jungle”. The camp was dismantled in October, moving an estimated 1,500 children to centres across France.

Extra resources have been pledged to Tulsa to help the agency identify children and expedite their transfer to Ireland in compliance with international law.

Up to 10,000 unaccompanied minors are estimated to be displaced across Europe as a result of the refugee crisis, which has seen EU countries struggle to agree a coherent strategy to deal with the numbers of displaced people arriving to the continent.

Migrant camps

Greece

The European Union last year agreed to a refugee relocation plan, in addition to a resettlement plan which resettles refugees directly from refugee camps outside Europe into countries within the EU.

However, the relocation plan, which seeks to transfer refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU countries, has been mired in bureaucratic delays, as the so-called hot spots set up to process arriving migrants in Greece and Italy are beset with difficulties.

Ireland, which opted into the relocation plan, had received a total of 109 asylum seekers up to early November under the plan, the latest official figures show, but the process is now accelerating, with about 40 refugees arriving each fortnight.

Ms Fitzgerald said Friday’s meeting of EU justice ministers outlined the progress that had been made on dealing with the migration crisis, with experts now arriving in the hot spots while the fingerprinting of all migrants is now taking place.

“There are still challenges, but a lot of progress has been made, including working with countries of origin to tackle the root causes of migration,” she said.

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