22. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in view of the increasing numbers of refugees drowning or being abandoned at sea while seeking entry into Europe, if she discussed the possibility of European Union governments, including this Government, agreeing to accept more refugees. [2134/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am acutely aware of the impact on ordinary lives resulting from the various conflicts around the world and that many people displaced by these conflicts have put their lives at risk by undertaking dangerous journeys by sea towards Europe.
Effectively addressing the implications of these global crises is one of the challenges facing the international community and these matters have been discussed at both Ministerial and Official level both here and in the EU.
Together with 25 other resettlement States world wide, including 16 EU Member States plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, Ireland is working closely with the UNHCR to respond to the plight of the most vulnerable persons displaced by these conflicts.
Through the resettlement programme, and in cooperation with local agencies in the region, the UNHCR identifies the most vulnerable refugees and refer them to resettlement States, including Ireland, for consideration.
Since 2000, 1,185 vulnerable persons from 27 different countries, including Iraq and Syria, have been resettled in Ireland and 40 persons have been relocated from Malta. The refugees have been resettled in 21 different communities throughout Ireland.
Over the coming years, Ireland is committed to continuing to support the efforts of the UNHCR to respond to the plight of vulnerable refugees.
Resettlement is just one of a suite of responses to persons displaced by the Syrian conflict. In 2014, Ireland introduced a Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme (SHAP). The SHAP offered naturalised Irish citizens of Syrian birth and Syrian nationals already legally resident in Ireland an opportunity to make an application for vulnerable close family members to join them in Ireland for up to two years under a sponsorship programme.
These are persons who are considered by their sponsoring family member present in Ireland to be most at risk. 114 beneficiaries have been granted admission under the programme. In addition, Syrians legally resident in Ireland, for example, students or persons on work permissions may apply for an extension of their permission to remain in the State while the crisis situation continues.
Of course, the opportunity to access Ireland's asylum procedures is open to any person who arrives at the frontiers of the State seeking protection or otherwise indicating an unwillingness to leave the State for fear of persecution. All applications for protection made in Ireland are processed in accordance with our international obligations and the granting of protection in Ireland is considered in accordance with a prescribed legal framework and exclusively on the merits of applications having regard to their subjective and objective elements. The protection system in Ireland is robust but fair and anybody who presents seeking protection and who is entitled to such protection will be granted it.
A total of 1,444 asylum applications were received in 2014 as compared with some 950 for 2013 equating to a 52% increase. This reverses the trend of recent years when application numbers were decreasing year on year. Applications have continued to trend upwards in 2015 with a further significant increase reported in January compared with the same period last year.
A total of 426 persons were declared to be refugees or persons eligible for subsidiary protection in 2014. This equates to a grant rate of 30%. Those granted protection were mainly from high risk countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Malawi.
Ireland has also made generous financial contributions (over 28 million euro) to countries in need through Development Aid at a time of severe financial constraints, and continues to provide support to those directly involved in humanitarian work in Syria and the wider region.