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Question

105. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the assistance given to refugees from Syria here as part of resettlement and relocation programmes to access education and employment and to have professional qualifications recognised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5669/18]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): I wish to inform the Deputy that while the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) is overseen at national level by my Department, all service provision is mainstreamed.  
The Department of Education and Skills has put in place, through local Education and Training Boards (ETB), interim arrangements for education.  This includes, for example, English Language training for children and adults in the Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres established by the IRPP.  A confident use of the English language is a key component of preparing refugees to enter the workforce and adults are provided with English language classes by the local ETBs in their resettlement area.  Applicants are assessed by ETB staff so as to identify the extent, if any, of their current language levels in English, whether written or spoken.  With regard to accessing school places, the Interagency Resettlement Committees includes representatives from Tusla Educational Welfare Services, who assist with securing school places for children.  
At local level, resettlement is coordinated by Interagency Resettlement Groups, under the auspices of the Local Authority, with funding provided by my Department to the Local Authority to employ an Implementing Partner, usually consisting of a resettlement support worker and an inter-cultural worker, who assist families in their new community, including to access local services.  The funding also facilitates the provision of after-school and out of school activities for primary or post-primary children and their integration into existing services. 
With regards to qualifications, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), hosts NARIC Ireland which offers advice on the academic recognition of foreign qualifications in Ireland. Employers, Regulators and Higher Education Bodies use the advice provided by NARIC in informing their decisions when assessing foreign qualifications.
In terms of refugees accessing employment, the most critical component, as I have stated above, is the ability to speak English to an appropriate level and this is stressed at all times to the refugees.  Some refugees have already secured employment with the assistance of my Department, the Irish Red Cross and EROC management, usually because they have relevant skills and a reasonable standard of English. But for most refugees it will take some time to acquire the competency necessary in English that will facilitate employment opportunities.
The Migrant Integration Strategy, which was published last year, offers a blueprint for the Government's action to promote migrant integration for the period to 2020.  It promotes action by Government, business, employers, migrants, NGOs and local communities. 
The Strategy includes targeted initiatives to promote migrant entrepreneurship, to encourage migrants into the Civil Service and onto State boards and to improve English language provision in education and training.  It is accompanied by a Communities Integration Fund, which will provide funding for community initiatives to promote integration.