The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan T.D., and his colleague, the Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton T.D., have proposed a new scheme of family reunification in support of refugees and their families, as part of the Government’s commitments under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. Minister Flanagan briefed Cabinet on the proposals today (Tuesday). 
Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Minister Flanagan outlined proposals for a new Family Reunification Humanitarian Admission Programme (FRHAP). Outlining the details of the programme, Minister Flanagan said:
 “We recently had detailed discussions on family reunification in the Seanad and, having carefully considered the views of parliamentary colleagues, Minister Stanton and I are pleased to announce this new scheme which will see up to 530 family members of refugees come to Ireland as part of our overall Refugee Protection Programme.
 “Family reunification is an important part of the process of integration for refugees in Ireland. I will operate this humanitarian admission programme under my Ministerial discretionary powers and it will be in addition to the family reunification provisions provided for in the International Protection Act 2015.”
Minister Flanagan also announced an increase in the number of new refugees to be resettled in Ireland over the next two years:
“We have increased our resettlement commitment for 2018 to 600 refugees and we have made a new pledge to resettle an additional 600 refugees in 2019. These are the largest pledges that the State has made for resettlement in a calendar year since our national resettlement programme began in 2000. It signifies our ongoing commitment to supporting the most vulnerable refugees by providing a safe haven and a welcoming environment to rebuild their lives here in Ireland. I am proud of the compassionate and welcome response of the Irish people to those fleeing harrowing conflicts, particularly in Syria”. 
These pledges have been made in the context of a European Commission/UNHCR resettlement pledging exercise for 2018/2019, which aims to provide 50,000 resettlement places across the European Union over the two-year period.  
Additional details on the operation of the programme will be announced on the websites of the Department of Justice and Equality (www.justice.ie) and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie) in the coming weeks. 
Welcoming the announcement of these measures, Minister of State, David Stanton, T.D., said:
 “As the expected numbers under the EU Relocation Programme did not become available to Member States, including Ireland, Minister Flanagan and I have been proactively examining the ways in which the State can fulfil its outstanding commitment under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. Increasing our resettlement commitments allows us to continue our tradition of supporting the most vulnerable refugees, as identified by UNHCR. As a complementary measure, we are providing persons granted status, including those who have been admitted under the IRPP, with an opportunity to have a limited number of additional members of their immediate family join them in Ireland under family reunification. This is a humane approach, which is in keeping with the family values at the heart of Irish society. I am sure that they will receive the same warm and generous welcome that the people of Ireland have provided to refugees and asylum seekers under the IRPP”.
Both Ministers acknowledged the continued support and cooperation of their Ministerial colleagues in implementing the Irish Refugee Protection Programme and the provision of services and supports for asylum seekers and refugees as part of a “whole-of-Government” approach.
Note for Editors
· The Government established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) in September 2015 as part of the State’s humanitarian response to the migration crisis in Southern Europe. The State agreed to accept up to 4,000 asylum seekers and refugees overall into Ireland under relocation and resettlement programmes at the earliest time possible. 
· Ireland voluntarily opted into the two EU Council Decisions on Relocation (2015/1523) and (2015/1601), which provided for the relocation of 160,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece. 
· By early 2018, Ireland will have admitted its entire cohort from Greece under the relocation programme (1,089) and will have admitted double our original commitment of 520 under the European Commission’s July 2015 Resettlement scheme (1,040). Relocation from Italy has not proven possible within the two-year timeframe of the relocation programme, due to a refusal by the Italian authorities to allow security assessments of candidates on its soil. 
· By the end of the two-year EU Relocation Programme in September 2017, 37,000 asylum seekers were eligible and registered for relocation in Italy and Greece, of which 78% (approximately 29,000) had been relocated to other EU Member States including Ireland. 
· To address the balance of approximately 1,800 people under the IRPP, additional resettlement pledges have been made for 2018 and 2019 and the Minister has announced the establishment of a new Family Reunification Humanitarian Admission Programme (FRHAP).  
· The FRHAP programme will address the issue of family reunification for some immediate family members that are outside the scope of the International Protection Act 2015. The 2015 Act provides for the family reunification of immediate family members (spouse, civil partner and minor children) in line with the permissions operated by other EU Member States under the EU Family Reunification Directive (in which Ireland does not participate).  
· This humanitarian admission programme will operate under the Minister’s discretionary powers and is expected to provide for the reunification of more than 500 vulnerable family members over the next two years. To allow the maximum number of families to benefit from the scheme sponsors will be asked to prioritise a small number of family members for admission. To minimise the impact on an already strained national housing supply, priority may be given to sponsors who can meet the accommodation requirements of eligible family members.