State sent €4m in funding for migrants back to EU

Ireland only spent half of its allocation from bloc’s integration fund between 2007-2015

Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Lynn Boylan: ‘We seem to have a particularly poor record in using EU funding compared to other member states.’

Almost €4 million of EU funding meant for projects to help migrants integrate in Ireland was sent back to Europe unspent.

Figures provided by the European Commission show that of €8,244,939 allocated to Ireland from the European Fund for Integration for the period 2007 to 2015, almost half was sent back to Brussels.

In a written answer to Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Lynn Boylan, the commission says: "Ireland did not make use of these funds and a substantial part [47.1 per cent or €3,933,413] was thus permanently lost."

It says the authority for managing the fund in Ireland “justified this underspending” by explaining applicant groups such as NGOs or other bodies “experienced challenges in meeting cofunding requirements”.

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“The complexities, according to the Irish authorities, of the rules on the eligibility of expenditure has been a barrier to the take-up of funding available under this fund . . .To prevent another situation of underspending the commission has urged Ireland to strengthen its administrative capacity in implementing the . . . fund.”

Ireland has received €1,950,691 from the fund, which is now known as the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund since January 2014.

Ms Boylan said she was worried a significant proportion of this money could be “permanently lost” unless the Government simplified procedures to access this funding and supported groups to do so.

Poor record

“We seem to have a particularly poor record in using EU funding compared to other member states.

“At a time when people are asking how we can afford to take in refugees and asylum seekers, it is dreadful to see we have sent back almost half of what is being made available to us.

“This is money that is badly needed, for projects that are really badly needed.”

She suggested each local authority or area should have an individual tasked solely with supporting groups to access EU funding, including integration funding.

This week the Government published its Migrant Integration Strategy, and the Minister with responsibility for integration, David Stanton, invited applications from communities across the State to avail of a new €500,000 integration fund.

He said projects to bring migrants and Irish people together could be anything from sports initiatives to homework clubs to theatre groups.

Underspend

Asked about the underspend of funds available from Europe,

Mr Stanton

said it was “mainly due to an insufficiency of suitable projects with the required level of matching funding”.

Ms Boylan said groups needed both to know the funds were available and that they could get support accessing them.

Mr Stanton said since 2000, 1,717 vulnerable people from 27 countries had been resettled in Ireland under the refugee resettlement programme. These included Iraqis and Syrians.

He said they had settled in 39 communities across the State with such supports as English classes, childcare to enable people attend classes, education for children, assistance applying for medical cards and registering with local GPs, and supports accessing services such as Intreo and training.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times