EU Ministers agree on relocation of 120,000 asylum seekers from front-line EU Member States
22 September 2015
At a special meeting attended today by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Ms. Frances Fitzgerald, T.D., EU Ministers formally agreed to relocate a further 120,000 people in need of international protection from front-line EU Member States to other parts of the EU. The measure is for relocation from Greece and Italy. To allow for account to be taken of the rapidly evolving situation, 66,000 will be allocated initially for the relocation of people from Greece and Italy and there will be an option to relocate the balance of 54,000 people from other member states coming under pressure if necessary. This is in addition to the earlier decision to relocate some 40,000 such people from Italy and Greece, thus bringing the total number of people to be relocated to 160,000.
Minister Fitzgerald said in line with our constitutional provisions she intended to seek Dáil and Seanad approval to formally opt in next week following official publication of the measure in the Official Journal.
The Government has already announced that Ireland would be prepared to accept up to 4,000 persons in need of international protection, including the 520 programme refugees currently being resettled in Ireland directly from refugee camps.
Commenting on the outcome of today’s Council, Minister Fitzgerald said: "At today's meeting I stressed the need to show the world that the EU can act in a swift and decisive manner on an issue of such importance. Unfortunately it was not possible to achieve a consensus but the vast majority of member states were in favour of the measure and it has been adopted by a majority vote. EU Member States have shown that at a time of great difficulty, they retain the capacity to act."
The Minister added: "We have recently seen many thousands of asylum seekers altering their routes into central and northern Europe as internal borders are re-imposed. We have also seen further heartening shows of solidarity and generosity on the part of ordinary citizens throughout Europe.
"But we have seen and heard a lot more pain, suffering and cries for help from the very vulnerable people at the heart of this crisis - and that should remain uppermost in our minds."
The Minister noted that, while the relocation measures would make a real contribution towards addressing the crisis in Europe, a comprehensive set of wider humanitarian and other policy solutions, including a returns policy, also need to be advanced: "This is why our respective Heads of State are holding an extraordinary meeting tomorrow evening to progress those other measures."
Ireland’s response as agreed by Government two weeks ago 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 increases 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 NGOs, religious bodies, local authorities and the Irish Red Cross. The first meeting of the Taskforce took place on Tuesday 15 September.