Stanton committed to welcoming 4,000 refugees despite 2017 failure

Total of 262 women, men and children have arrived in Ireland from Greece this year

The Department of Justice has said it is committed to meeting its original pledge of welcoming 4,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Greece, Lebanon and Italy.

Speaking at the Children’s Rights Alliance symposium on child refugees, Minister of State for Justice and Equality David Stanton said while the State had met only half its original commitment of bringing 4,000 people to Ireland by the end of 2017, the Department of Justice remained “committed to admitting the full cohort pledged under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme”.

A total of 262 women, men and children have arrived in Ireland from Greece so far this year bringing to 1,814 the number of people who came here under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) since 2015. Nearly half of these new arrivals are children, while more than four out of five are 12 years of age or younger. Another 41 unaccompanied minors have also been brought to Ireland from Calais.

IRPP director John Roycroft said vulnerability assessments were being carried out at centres in Ballaghaderren, Mosney, Clonea Strand and Monasterevin as soon as families arrive in Ireland to gauge the level of support needed for children. Often the longer term effects of war and trauma arise only after the child has begun to settle in Ireland, he added.


Waiting time

At present, the average waiting time for the programme’s refugees to be moved from emergency reception and orientation centres into more permanent housing is eight to nine months, far longer than the two to three months that was originally envisaged. However, Mr Roycroft said the housing supply for refugees was improving and that this waiting period would shorten. “To put it in perspective, our needs aren’t huge. We bring in a thousand people, that’s 200 houses spread across the entire 19 different local authority areas, it’s not enormous. There is a gradual supply of houses coming on stream.”

Speaking on Thursday, Unicef senior spokeswoman on refugee and migrant children Sarah Crowe warned that thousands of refugee children continued to go missing on their journey across Europe, while an estimated 1,750 children had died while crossing the Mediterranean in the past two years.

These children have “gone through hell” in parts of the Middle East and Africa, however, it is only when they reach Europe, “this elusive El Dorado where their dreams are so close but still so far away, that they become deeply troubled”, she said. “For many children uprooted from their homes their experiences are like being in another form of prison.”

Ms Crowe advised the Irish Government to follow in the steps of Nordic countries that have introduced measures to make the refugee application process as child-friendly and smooth-running as possible.

“We’d like Ireland to join the Nordics in the race to the top and be a champion for children and to consider that migration is here to stay and we’re only seeing the beginning of what this means. We know the global north is ageing while the south is young and on the move. Policies need to shift accordingly, lasting solutions must be found.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast