14 September 2015
The EU Justice and Home Affairs Council today formally adopted the decision to relocate 40,000 people in need of international protection. Minister Fitzgerald stated that Ireland will immediately move to implement the measure and she would expect a significant number of the 600 applicants to be relocated to Ireland within the next few months.
As part of the Presidency Conclusions presented at the end of the Council it was noted that there was agreement in principle by the vast majority of member states on the proposed relocation of an additional 120,000 people. This additional measure is intended to further ease the burden currently being experienced by frontline Member States and the details of the proposal will be brought before the Justice and Home Affairs Council in October.
Commenting on the outcome of today’s Council Minister Fitzgerald said 'This is a humanitarian crisis which has continued to escalate and to which there are no simple answers. No one State can deal with this issue on their own and a coherent EU-wide response is needed. I have made it clear to our EU partners that Ireland will work closely and collaboratively with them. Today’s Council was another step towards establishing a much needed response to the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in. I am confident that we will take the next steps when Ministers meet again in Luxembourg in October.’
The Minister thanked the Commission for the wide-ranging proposals it presented which warrant careful and detailed consideration. Officials will examine the proposals as a matter of priority with a view to the Council adopting additional measures in October. In recognising that the Union remains in the midst of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the Minister said that "Ireland understands the substantial nature and scale of the challenges that many EU member states are facing as a result of this crisis and I have outlined to my Ministerial colleagues the need to chart a path forward to address this crisis in all its aspects.”
The Minister explained that Ireland’s decision to opt-in comes not only out of a desire to help those seeking protection but also out of a desire to express solidarity with our EU partners who are under pressure from the sheer volume of migrants arriving daily. Minister Fitzgerald said: “Ireland has always lived up to its international humanitarian obligations and we are fully committed to playing our part in addressing the migration crisis facing Europe”
In response to Minister Fitzgerald’s intervention the Luxembourg Presidency warmly welcomed the contribution made by Ireland and the decision to opt-in to the two relocation decisions.
Ireland’s response as agreed by Government last week includes;
· The introduction of the ‘Irish Refugee Protection Programme’ which will provide international protection for up to 4,000 persons overall under Resettlement & Relocation Programmes in response to the current migration crisis.
· A Network of Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres to be established. Applicants will not be placed into the established Direct Provision System.
· Assessments and decisions on refugee status to be made in Centres, within weeks. Given that applicants are coming from Syria and Eritrea it is likely most will get refugee status very quickly.
· Special priority will be given to the plight of unaccompanied minors in the provision of supports and services.
· The Government has approved additional budget allocation to deal with major increase in asylum and other immigration cases.
· A new cross-departmental Taskforce, chaired by the Department of Justice & Equality, will coordinate and implement the Programme. The Taskforce will work with NGO’s, religious bodies, local authorities and the Irish Red Cross. The first meeting of the Taskforce will take place on Tuesday 15 September.
The Justice and Home Affairs Ministers are scheduled to meet again in Luxembourg on the 8th and 9th of October.