Tánaiste meets Minister for Migration and NGO's on second day of official visit to Athens
12 December 2016
The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has informed the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, that Ireland will meet its migration commitment to Greece in full. This means that including those who have already arrived, Ireland will have welcomed at least 1,100 asylum seekers from Greece by next September.
The Tánaiste met the Greek Prime Minister this morning as part of her official visit to Greece with Minister Katherine Zappone.
Speaking in Athens, the Tánaiste said: "Ireland took the decision to opt in to the EU relocation programme and I am determined that we do everything possible to fulfil our commitments. I am here in Athens to speak to migrants, Greek authorities and Ministers and NGO's who are all working on the front lines of this crisis."
"The Prime Minister and I discussed the ongoing crisis and I reaffirmed our commitment to offer all assistance possible to the migrants and the Greek people. I informed the Prime Minister that we would welcome at least 1,100 asylum seekers from Greece by next September.
"I have also asked my officials to examine the possibility of increasing these numbers further in light of the difficulties in vetting asylum seekers in Italy which is hampering our efforts to accept migrants from there.
"Separately, I announced last year that we would resettle 520 refugees by the end of this year - that was double the amount the European Commission had proposed for Ireland. And I have subsequently stated that I am voluntarily doubling that number again - we will now take in a further 520 refugees in 2017, bringing the resettlement numbers up to over 1,000 by next year.
"The Government is determined to welcome vulnerable people fleeing war and conflict. Ireland is the only country in Europe which has specifically chosen to participate in the relocation programme, using our justice opt-in.
"Relocation is a complex process that has been a challenge. We have had to work very closely with our colleagues in Greece to get on track.
"Today I also met asylum seekers and families who wish to come to Ireland to start a new life. They were being assessed by our officials in Greece and members of An Garda Síochána who are on a selection mission this week. I saw the determination of great people who need a second chance, combined with the compassionate efficiency of our teams working here in Athens."
The Tánaiste and Minister Zappone also visited an unaccompanied minor centre, met the Greek Minister for Migration and discussed the situation on the ground with Greek and International NGO's.
Tomorrow the Tánaiste will visit a number of migrant camps and meet the Minister of the Interior and Public Order.
Note to Editors
Ireland has committed to take just under 1,100 asylum seekers from Greece by the end of 2017. By the end of this year 239 of these will be in Ireland, 103 of whom are children with 81 of these children under the age of 12. Ireland will also have accepted 18 unaccompanied minors, of whom 14 will be here by year end, with a determination on our part to further increase this number. A further 164 asylum seekers will have been interviewed in Athens by the end of the year and they will arrive in Ireland in early 2017. 73 of these are children with 57 of these under the age of 12. Ireland is now interviewing and assessing 80 asylum seekers every month for relocation to Ireland, a large proportion of whom are currently young children.
The above figures do not take account of Ireland’s intake of programme refugees from Lebanon. 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.