Tuesday 24 April 2018

Higgins criticises the slow arrival of refugees to Ireland

President Michael D Higgins with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during the summit. Photo: Chris Bellew
President Michael D Higgins with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during the summit. Photo: Chris Bellew

Laura Larkin in Istanbul

President Michael D Higgins has criticised the slow roll-out of Ireland's refugee programme as new figures show that only a handful of the thousands of refugees we pledged to take in have arrived here due to paperwork delays.

He was speaking at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul when he said if paperwork delays were slowing down the programme, all governments would have to overhaul the process and "get on with it".

"We need to look at the process and the process shouldn't have taken so long to have gotten right, but it isn't only an Irish situation, all of the countries in Europe who made a pledge have a responsibility.

"All countries in Europe must approach it and look at its circumstances... if, for example, the reason we are not meeting the obligation is because the paperwork in either Greece or Italy isn't in position, you change the process and you get on with it," he said.

Mr Higgins said he wasn't looking to lay blame on anyone for the slow uptake - just 10 refugees have so far arrived here.

"I'm not really interested in applying blame on any particular person or institution but in trying to understand why it is that it hasn't happened," he said.

He addressed a number of round-table events at the summit which hopes to look at how aid funding is raised and distributed to best solve emergencies such as the refugee crisis, climate change and conflict.

He called for an end to empty promises and urged more action to be taken to tackle humanitarian crises around the world.

World leaders have been "gravely failing the most vulnerable on our planet", he said.

Outgoing general secretary of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon called the summit because "global humanitarian action is unprecedentedly strained", he told the opening ceremony.

A number of divisive topics are on the table over the course of the summit including the possibility of a financial transactions tax and the expansion of a voluntary "solidarity levy" to fund humanitarian aid.

However, head of Trocaire Eamonn Meehan has said the summit lacks any real teeth as any agreements reached are not binding and key world leaders, such as US President Barack Obama, are not attending.

Irish Independent

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