11 December 2016
The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, TD, are undertaking a three-day official visit to Greece, with senior officials from the Departments of Justice and Equality and Children and Youth Affairs including the Director of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, the Refugee Applications Commissioner and a Child Care Specialist.
The visit provides an opportunity to see at first hand the effects of the migration crisis on both migrants as well as Greek society and will provide an opportunity to assess progress to date and how to further build on that progress.
As part of a full agenda they will:
· Visit reception camps and meet migrants, children and staff;
· Meet senior Greek Ministers and their staff;
· Meet Irish officials working with migrants in Greece;
· Meet migrants, refugees, their children and unaccompanied minors;
· Meet Greek NGO's, Médicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, UNICEF and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) OXFAM
Speaking in advance of the visit the Tánaiste said, “The Irish Refugee Protection Programme is making real progress and I want to ensure that our efforts continue and indeed accelerate. This visit provides an opportunity to engage directly with the Greek authorities as well as people working on the frontline and to further demonstrate Ireland’s commitment to playing a full part in International efforts to resolve this crisis. It is also about offering people fleeing war and devastation the chance to rebuild their lives in Ireland.”
Minister Zappone said, “Warlords, terrorists and human traffickers have put children in the front-line of this humanitarian crisis. I am going to Greece to listen to the voices of children. I will also see at first hand the vital work of Irish volunteers on the ground. So far this year 112 lone children have arrived in Ireland – of which 66 remain in the care of my officials at the Child and Family Agency Tusla.”
By the end of 2016, it is expected that 400 people will have arrived or been cleared for arrival to Ireland from Greece under the EU programme.
This is in addition to Ireland’s intake of programme refugees from Lebanon under the resettlement strand of the IRPP. Ireland has committed to take 520 Syrian refugees in 2016. 507 refugees are already in Ireland and the balance will arrive in the coming days. Ireland has further committed to take another 520 programme refugees in 2017.