Cost of refugees to Ireland under EU relocation to be €48m

Divisions persist among EU states on proposed mandatory relocation programme

Minister of State at the Department of Finance Simon Harris  before the start of an informal economic and financial affairs council (Ecofin) meeting at the European Council in Luxembourg, September 11th, 2015. Photograph: Thierry Monasse/AFP/Getty Images

Minister of State at the Department of Finance Simon Harris before the start of an informal economic and financial affairs council (Ecofin) meeting at the European Council in Luxembourg, September 11th, 2015. Photograph: Thierry Monasse/AFP/Getty Images

 

The cost to Ireland of accommodating refugees under the new EU relocation programme will amount to €48 million, Minister of State Simon Harris said on Friday, as the European Commission agreed to undertake an analysis of the financial impact of the refugee crisis on member states.

Following a request by the Luxembourg presidency of the EU council, the European Commission will now undertake an analysis of the economic and budgetary impact of the refugee crisis on member states.

A number of countries, including Austria, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic, had requested that the commission allow national spending on the refugee crisis to be excluded from debt and deficit calculations.

Long-term benefits

While EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said his department would undertake an economic analysis, returning to the issue at October’s EU finance ministers’ meeting, he stressed that the long-term benefits as well as short-term budgetary costs of accepting refugees should be considered.

“The economic impact should not be just looked at in terms of cost. In economic terms it is also a resource, a human resource. Our countries need migration,” he said.

As discussion of the financial implications of the refugee crisis took place in Luxembourg, divisions persisted among member states about the EU’s proposed mandatory relocation programme for migrants ahead of a key meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels on Monday.

A meeting in Prague between Germany’s foreign minister and the foreign ministers of a core group of central and East European countries yielded little progress, with a number of east European countries reiterating their opposition to mandatory migrant quotas.

“We need to have control over how many we are capable of accepting,” said Czech foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek after the meeting.

Emergency summit

European Council president Donald Tusk said on Friday that an emergency leaders’ summit could be convened if justice ministers fail to sign up to the European Commission’s proposal to distribute across the EU 120,000 refugees who have arrived in Hungary, Italy and Greece.

EU sources suggested on Friday that while broad political buy-in might be achieved on Monday, full details of the programme may not be worked out until a scheduled meeting of justice ministers on October 8th.

Ireland confirmed on Thursday that it would opt in to the EU’s relocation programme, and will offer to accept 2,900 extra refugees when EU justice ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Speaking in Luxembourg on Friday, Minister of State Simon Harris said the Irish Government’s priority was to ensure a humanitarian response to the refugee crisis.

A good position

He said the economic recovery meant Ireland was in a good position to absorb the costs of accepting refugees.

“The cost to Ireland - and I don’t like talking to this in terms of costs because we are talking about people’s lives - of accommodating 4,000 refugees is in or around 48 million.

“Already, President Juncker indicated that there will be part funding coming from the European Union. I understand that a number of European countries would like to see the issue dealt with outside deficit targets and I wait to see how that develops,” he said.

On Friday, the European Investment Bank (EIB) confirmed it would assist in financing infrastructure associated with housing, and the medical and schooling needs of refugees.

Speaking following a meeting with EIB representatives in Luxembourg, Mr Harris said the commitment by the EIB to respond to the refugee crisis was welcome.

“It is a very welcome move that the EIB now stands ready to offer its full range of financial instruments to Ireland, other EU member states, and beyond the EU in response to the immediate and longer term needs of the refugee crisis,” he said.