Friday 31 July 2015

Ireland will take in families fleeing catastrophe in Iraq

Michael Staines

Published 14/08/2014 | 02:30

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, flash signs as they take part in a demonstration at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, flash signs as they take part in a demonstration at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province

Ireland is to offer refuge to families fleeing violence in Northern Iraq as part of an emergency response to the humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

The plans were announced alongside €500,000 in funding support for charities working with some of the most vulnerable casualties of the conflict.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said the decision to accept refugees from Iraq had only just been taken, and although work is already under way there are no details as yet of how many people will be allowed resettle here.

The extra funding support will be split between UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross and will focus on the elderly, vulnerable women and children and minority groups.

These include up to 30,000 minority Yazidi civilians displaced near Mount Sinjar and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Iraqis.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan called on all parties to the conflict to ensure the safe passage of refugees.

"The plight of the most vulnerable - particularly, children, women and elderly people - is increasingly desperate and Ireland is doing all it can to provide urgent life-saving assistance," he said.

The issue of how to decide who will qualify for resettlement is under consideration at the Department of Justice.

The spokesman for the department said one possibility under consideration is a similar system to that currently used to relocate Syrian refugees.

Syrians already living in Ireland are allowed to apply for vulnerable, close family members to join them on a temporary basis. In the past, refugees arriving under similar programmes would bypass the controversial direct-provision system - the first port of call for many refugees in Ireland.

Under direct provision, asylum seekers are not allowed to work, but they do receive bed and board and a weekly payment of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child. In the case of Syrian refugees, relatives here are required to look after the newcomers who will be allowed to work on arrival.

Colin MacInnes, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Iraq, is currently in Erbil in the northern part of the country. He told the Irish Independent that the number of people who have been displaced over recent days has been quite dramatic.

He said that extreme high temperatures are causing real difficulties for people who are travelling on foot.

"If you can't get to people within four or five days, their chances of survival are reduced significantly," he said.

Desperate

He said that in some cases, desperate parents are sending their children on ahead alone unable to continue themselves.

"There was one girl in particular who stood out for me, she was 13 years old and she told me she had two younger brothers and two younger sisters but no parents," he said.

"She was so dehydrated they had to put her on a drip for her to survive. She told me she has no choice now, she has to survive. She is the only family left for her little brothers and sisters. You see that story now very often."

World news: Page 25

Irish Independent

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