Wednesday 7 December 2016

Refugee crisis: Tánaiste says number of Syrian refugees resettled here will far exceed 4,000 in €50m plan

Philip Ryan, John Downing, Niall O'Connor, and Sam Griffin

Published 10/09/2015 | 02:30

A refugee seeks help for an ill child in Hungary yesterday
A refugee seeks help for an ill child in Hungary yesterday
Migrants arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to Lesbos island, Greece

Tanaiste Joan Burton says the number of Syrian refugees resettled in Ireland will far exceed 4,000 when the family reunification process is also carried out.

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At a special cabinet meeting this morning on the crisis the government approved plans to house 4,000 refugees here in a €50m per year programme.

The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald this morning confirmed a budget has been allocated and refugee welcome centres will be set up around the country.

Ms Burton leader confirmed the family reunification process will happen in addition to the 4,000 figure announced by the government this morning.

Ms Burton had previously said around 5,000 refugees could be resettled here and that there would be no uppermost limit on the numbers welcomed.

Speaking after a Dublin Chamber event this morning, she said: “The figures announced this morning are entirely consistent with everything I said.

“I said it would be up to 5,000. In fact it will actually be somewhat higher than that over a period of time. We're talking in terms of 4,000 of the people we're taking directly in through the European initiative and some people we'd already agreed via the UN programme for refugees.

“But in addition to that let me make it clear we will have a process of family reunification where that is appropriate. Obviously we don't have a total estimate on those numbers.

She added that in previous programmes the numbers resettled through family reunification have been “significant” and expected this to be the case once again.

“I'm very satisfied with the figure. I've worked in this area previously and I think the figures are very realistic and happen over a period of time,” she told journalists.

Ms Burton added she was happy that the response by the government “reflected the ethos and history of Ireland” and said there would be a focus on resettling women and children through a fast-tracked process.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has promised that those arriving here won’t be accommodated through the direct provision system.

The Tánaiste said there would be a period of “orientation and reception” for those who arrive here which would happen in conjunction with civil society groups, the army and religious organisations.

She said there had been a “variety of offers” put forward in terms of where to house people, when asked if they would be accommodated in army barracks and large public buildings.

“We’re looking at the offers and the Minister for Justice is assessing those offers. There will be a task force working to deal with all the details, whether its accommodation, whether its English language, whether it’s helping people many of whom will be skilled,” she said.

Earlier this morning, Frances Fitzgerald said: "The initial budget agreement this morning is that for every 1,000 refugees that we welcome, the cost is approximately €12m per 1,000.”

She said the Government is now asking the European Commission to exclude this sum from national finances.

“The main point is the that Cabinet recognises and wants to respond to this Humanitarian crisis.”

“4,000 is the figure that will take account of what the Commission is asking us to do but it is somewhat more generous than that figure.”

She said a network of emergency reception and orientation centres will be set up around the country.

Refugees will start arriving primarily from Greece and Hungary by the end of the year, the Minister said.

She said any security and public order issues will be dealt with, and Ireland would have the right to refuse any refugee on those bases.

Accomdation centres will be set up within buildings under the Department of Defence, the Office of Public Works, and voluntary offers. Audits will be carried on these accommodation centres in the coming weeks, she said.

Read more: 'Europe represents a beacon of hope for families fleeing terror' - Juncker

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms Fitzgerald welcomed the offers of support from the public and charities but said an organised approached will be needed to ensure the support is maximised.

Read more: Why Mr Juncker's jibe jarred so much

"Lots of people are making individual offers. When people come over they can't just go straight to those offers. It has to be coordinated," she said

"If people are assessed as refugees then they are effectively citizens, then they can go off and make their own decisions whether they accept offers of accommodation."

She added: "We will have all sorts of needs for these families - language is going to be very important and education facilities and health services.

"There is coordination needed but we have done this in the past with Bosnians and other refuges so it is not something we are not used to dealing with."

Government is awaiting a response from the European Commission in relation to the potential impact the migrant crisis could have on October's Budget.

Coalition figures are anxious to ensure Ireland's financial contribution in terms of housing migrants does not jeopardise plans to introduce at least €1.5bn worth of tax cuts and spending measures.

The Government will propose that any spending on the migrant crisis will be facilitated by loosening strict EU budget rules.

There is additional revenue available due to strong exchequer returns but the Government cannot spend more than €1.5bn on tax cuts and services due to the EU fiscal rules.

Read more: Donors give ‘jackets off their backs’ for refugees

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin yesterday said he has been in touch with the Commission over the "cost factor" associated with Ireland's migrant strategy.

"Ireland wants to play its full part in dealing with what is a humanitarian crisis for Europe and indeed the world," the Labour Party TD said.

"One of the things I've been asking of the Commission is that any monies expended in these matters would not be part of the fiscal space that would be required of every other area of expenditure. I think that would be something that the Commission should accede to."

A source last night said the Coalition is "keen to obtain assurances" from the Commission quickly because the Budget is just over a month away.

"We are confident that our budget plans to lift the burden on families will not be impacted," the source added.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said Europe's response to the crisis has "clearly not been good enough" but welcomed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's address yesterday.

"Europe must act together to address this issue. It is not just an issue for some member states such as Greece, Italy and Hungary. We all have a responsibility. It is only when all the EU member states act collectively that this issue can be dealt with," he said.

Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada called on the Government to reform the current asylum system in this country to ensure refugees are "treated with respect and dignity".

Irish Independent

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