Sunday 25 September 2016

Plan still not in place for the arrival of 4,000 migrants - Varadkar

Published 14/09/2015 | 02:30

Hundreds turned out on Sandymount Strand in Dublin yesterday to send a strong message to the Government that people in Ireland want to extend the welcome to refugees. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Hundreds turned out on Sandymount Strand in Dublin yesterday to send a strong message to the Government that people in Ireland want to extend the welcome to refugees. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said the HSE is preparing for the arrival of up to 4,000 asylum-seekers, but has said no definite plans are currently in place.

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Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Varadkar said a joint working group was discussing the issue, but added that money had yet to be set aside for any projects.

"It is on the agenda. There is currently a working group involving the different parties working on it and the HSE is on that group," he said.

When asked if the projects had any monetary value attached to them, he said they had not.

Edel McGinley, the director of the Migrant Rights Centre, hit out at Mr Varadkar's comments and has cited what she calls "a lack transparency from the Government" on the issue as a reason for concern.

Ms McGinley said that access to "doctors and counsellors" was vital for those arriving in the country as many would have spent months on the road or living in camp sites across the continent.

"People arriving will need access to psychological and physical medical services," she said. "At the moment we don't know what will be in place for them. The last thing we have really heard from the Government is that we will be taking 4,000 people, which isn't enough.

Limbo

"We still don't know how or where they will be housed. We have still not been given answers as to whether they will be placed in direct provision where we already have 4,500 left stranded in limbo.

"What we need is transparency and openness. The for-profit system we have for housing migrants is not working and is not acceptable. We can't see a repeat of that in the future."

Last Thursday, Mr Varadkar signed regulations to exempt asylum seekers who are currently living in direct provision from paying the prescription charge levied on medical card holders.

The move came after a recommendation from the working group that expressed concerns surrounding asylum seekers suffering from chronic illnesses.

The Dublin West TD said the decision was made after it came to light that refugees were struggling to meet the charge, which equates to €2.50 per item from their weekly payment of only €19.10.

Mr Varadkar said last week that the exemption would help to "relieve some of the financial burden on people living in direct provision, who previously were obliged to pay the charge from limited state support".

The exemption was one of the recommendations made by a Department of Justice working group in a report published late last week.

The only current exemptions in place are for children in the care of the HSE. Those on the methadone programme are also covered.

Irish Independent

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