493. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way the Government will respond to a quota system, in response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, where the United Nations has calculated that 60,000 persons have tried to cross already this year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19327/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): In terms of immediate actions the two main proposals relate to resettlement and relocation. The Commission indicated that they will be recommending an EU resettlement scheme by the end of May for 20,000 places. This number will be distributed among Member States in accordance with several clearly defined criteria (Ireland’s proposed share will be 1.36% or 272 persons). Participation would be voluntary, given that there are no existing powers under EU law to compel Member States to participate in such schemes, but; depending on the approach adopted by Member States the Commission may bring forward binding and mandatory legislative proposals to cover the period beyond 2016.
In line with our regular commitment on resettlement, Ireland had already agreed to resettle 220 refugees over the next two years. However the Government has agreed in principle to resettle an additional 300 vulnerable people as our contribution to this important European initiative. This brings our total commitment on resettlement to the end of 2016 to five hundred and twenty (520) people, or nearly twice the quota proposed by the Commission for Ireland.
Relocation is a more complicated issue and there are different perspectives among Member States. To deal with the situation in the Mediterranean the Commission is now proposing to trigger the emergency response mechanism under Article 78.3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU via a proposal to be published by the end of May 2015. This proposal will include a distribution mechanism for persons in clear need of international protection. Such persons would have their asylum claim considered in the receiving Member State. However no details are available as to what the Commission plan would actually entail and until we have more information it would be premature for me to comment further at this point.
I would refer the Deputy also to my reply to Question Number 114 answered today which goes into the situation in the Mediterranean in more depth.