· Ministers discussing progress on resettlement and relocation programmes

· Discussions also focused on continued supports for Greece

20th May, 2016

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald T.D., is today attending the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels.

Speaking at the Council, the Tánaiste said “Ireland is taking concrete steps to assist Greece. Irish officials are being assigned to the European Asylum Support Office and deployed to the Greek Islands. Support is also being provided to an Appeals Committee. This will assist in ensuring all applications are processed in line with EU standards.

With effect from June, Ireland expects to relocate 40 people every 8 weeks from Greece to Ireland now that the earlier practical problems in Greece are being resolved. This number will be reviewed depending on the situation on the ground in Greece.

Ireland has fully met our commitments under the resettlement programme. 263 Syrian refugees came directly from refugee camps in Lebanon and we will be taking another 257 from Refugee camps in January 2017.”

Ministers were informed that the flow of migrants from Turkey to Greece had reduced by over 90%. In January of this year over 60,000 people came from Turkey to Greece, this was now down to about 3,000 per month. The numbers taking the perilous sea route has reduced dramatically and this will hopefully lead to a significant reduction in the loss of life associated with that route.

However the summer months will present new challenges as desperate migrants make further attempts to come to Europe. The Greek Immigration Minister has made the point that there are now 56,000 migrants stranded in Greece and only 40,000 reception places available and that his country needs ongoing support.

By the end of this year, Ireland will have taken in over 500 refugees under the EU relocation and resettlement programmes and next year the number will be higher.

No decision has been made yet on the question of Ireland taking Syrians directly from Turkey. By the end of this month about 80 Syrians are expected to have been returned to Turkey, all on a voluntary basis. 120 Syrians have been resettled from Turkey to Member States.

Migrants also continue to use the even more dangerous route from Libya in the central Mediterranean. The Irish Naval ship the L.E. Roisin continues to be involved in rescue missions in the Mediterranean.