· Over 550 refugees and asylum seekers have arrived thus far in Ireland this year through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme
· Over 1,300 are now scheduled to arrive in 2017 with that number likely to significantly increase as further pledges and commitments are made by Ireland in 2017
· The Greek relocation programme is now fully operational as Ireland has committed to taking in all allocated asylum seekers by the end of 2017 


5 October 2016 

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD and David Stanton TD, Minister of State for Justice with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration, and Integration have outlined the progress on Ireland’s commitments on relocation and resettlement programmes.

Earlier this week the Tánaiste and Minister of State chaired the 5th meeting of the inter-Departmental and Agency Taskforce on issues relating to the arrival of refugees and asylum seekers.  

The Tánaiste said “The Government is determined to press ahead with delivering on Ireland’s commitments.

The resettlement of refugees from Lebanon will be delivered ahead of target by Ireland. Ireland has made a further commitment of 260 refugees for 2017 and I am actively considering another substantial pledge. While the relocation programme from Greece has been slower to progress, significant numbers of asylum seekers are now beginning to arrive in Ireland from Greece.

The Tánaiste also said “I strongly urged departments and agencies to get on with the planning and to make provision for the necessary resources in 2017 to deal with the expected increase in numbers.

Minister Stanton said “It is now abundantly clear that the people arriving to-date under have suffered greatly and are made up of people fleeing civil war and conflict. Many have suffered terribly, have unaddressed or undiagnosed medical needs and many children have never attended school or have missed years of their schooling. They have lost everything they have ever owned and are arriving on our shores with just the clothes on their backs. This is a terribly vulnerable group that need all our help and assistance.”

A team from the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) and an Garda Síochána are on the ground in Athens this week interviewing the next group of asylum seekers due to arrive in Ireland. Also experienced team of social workers from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency have accompanied the IRPP team in Athens in order to interview unaccompanied minors and meet Greek officials regarding a regular intake of unaccompanied minors from Greece.

The Irish Red Cross reported to the Ministers that they had active pledges of accommodation that could be made available in the very near future with 151 offers of vacant accommodation, 66 of which were ready to progress and 300 active pledges of shared accommodation with 163 confirmed as ready to progress. Together with the Department of Justice and Equality they were close to finalising a package of measures to resolve logistical, practical and legal issues around the pledging of accommodation by both existing pledges and other bodies who wished to make new pledges.

- ENDS - 

The meeting received updates from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service on migration patterns, developments and trends.

It also heard reports and updates from senior members of the:  

· Department of Health and the HSE
· Department of Children and Youth Affairs
· Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government AND the City and County Managers Association
· Department of Education and Skills
· Irish Red Cross
· Department of Social Protection
· Department of Justice and Equality and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service  


Note for Editors  

Irish Refugee Protection Programme 

The Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) was established by Government Decision on 10 September 2015 as a direct response to the humanitarian crisis that developed in Southern Europe as a consequence of mass migration from areas of conflict in the Middle East and Africa. Under this programme, the Government has pledged to accept a total of 4,000 persons into the State by the end of 2017, through a combination of the EU relocation mechanism established by two EU Council Decisions in 2015 to assist Italy and Greece, and the UNHCR-led refugee resettlement programme currently focused on resettling refugees from camps in Jordan and Lebanon.  

Cross-Departmental Taskforce.
A Cross Departmental Taskforce chaired by the Department of Justice and Equality, to deal with the operational and logistical aspects of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme was created under the same Government Decision that established the Programme. The Taskforce is adopting a whole of Government approach. Its membership comprises all the main Government Departments and State agencies that play a role in the delivery of services to refugees as well as the UNHCR and the Red Cross. Among the many issues covered by the Taskforce are – emergency accommodation and housing, education, health, social protection, security, integration, and pledges of support from members of the public and the voluntary sector. There is scope for operational sub-groups to be established under the auspices of the Taskforce to tackle the more practical issues arising in the delivery of services to refugees and their integration into society. In this regard specific sub-groups have been created to deal with housing, health and social protection and volunteer services offered through local faith communities of all religions. Engagement with the broader NGO sector is also planned.  

How the 4,000 people will be taken in under the IRPP 

Of the 4,000 people committed to under the September 2015 Government decision establishing the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, 780 (520 of whom will arrive in 2016 and 260 in 2017) from Lebanon under the refugee resettlement programme and 2,622 are to be taken in under the EU relocation scheme from Greece and Italy. A decision has yet to be taken on the mechanism under which the residual will be taken.  

Ireland is not at present participating in the EU Turkey 1:1 programme as it has no unused quota from the Council Conclusions of 20 July 2015 on resettlement that could be used to pledge under the first tranche of the programme. Participation in the second tranche of the EU Turkey 1:1 scheme will require the exercise of an opt in. 

Refugee Resettlement Programme - Progress
Under the resettlement part of the Programme, 520 refugees are to be resettled in Ireland by the end of 2016. To date, 486 refugees have been admitted to the State. Sufficient cases have already been selected during a mission to Lebanon earlier this year to ensure that the remaining refugees in this quota of 520 will be taken in by the end of 2016 ahead of schedule. In addition, the Government recently announced that it is extending the resettlement programme to take in a further 260 refugees from Lebanon in 2017.  

EU Relocation Mechanism - Progress 

Under relocation, Ireland has to date taken in 69 Syrians from Greece, mostly families. A further 40 people have been assessed and cleared for arrival and arrangements for their travel to the State are currently being made. Last month, IRPP officials interviewed a group of 63 people in Athens who, once cleared for travel, are expected to arrive in November and the IRPP team is out in Athens once again this week assessing a further 71 people. It is estimated that by the end of 2016, Ireland will have accepted at least 360 people through the EU’s relocation pledge system.  

The intention thereafter is to sustain the pace and size of intakes throughout 2017 at the levels required to allow Ireland to meet its commitments within the timeframe envisaged by the Programme. This will of course depend on the continued cooperation of the Greek and Italian authorities in the process of selecting and assessing persons for assignment to Ireland. Further use of the resettlement programme to boost the rate of intake is also being considered.