Tuesday 24 April 2018

EU to pick up half the €48m bill for Ireland's 4,000 migrant intake

Irish Red Cross Worker, Emily Guilfoyle at the launch of the new Irish Red Cross hotline number for resettlement services for refugees
Irish Red Cross Worker, Emily Guilfoyle at the launch of the new Irish Red Cross hotline number for resettlement services for refugees

John Downing and Sam Griffin

The EU will pay half the €48m cost of caring for the 4,000 refugees who are being taken in as part of Ireland's effort to help with the European migrant crisis.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said that Brussels will pay €6,000 per refugee towards the estimated yearly programme of €12m per 1,000 refugees.

Ms Fitzgerald said Ireland will take about 2,900 more people, expected to come mainly from war-torn Syria, in addition to the 1,100 already agreed.

The Justice Minister said Ireland's contribution was expected to be in excess of what would be requested by the EU Commission at a crucial meeting in Brussels next Monday.

And Tánaiste Joan Burton insisted her earlier prediction of 5,000 refugees being taken would very likely be borne out, as the extra numbers would be family members who would be entitled to follow on.

The junior minister responsible, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, said he believed the first people could arrive "within weeks" and very many of those being taken could be in Ireland by Christmas.

Officials yesterday said a new task force, combining up to a dozen government departments and agencies with agencies like the Red Cross, will coordinate the logistical challenge of taking in the refugees.

A Justice Department official said the Garda would liaise with overseas police forces and international agencies like Interpol and Europol to deal with any potential security threat.

"We will be guarding against the potential threat of Islamic militants, or simply criminals, slipping into the country in this way. All of those involved will be systematically finger-printed to help in this," the official said.

But Ms Fitzgerald also said the vast majority of those coming were decent people who needed sanctuary from the horror of war.

She said there would be a special element in the programme to support women, children and unaccompanied minors.

The Justice Minister also repeated the assertion by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, that Ireland's expenditure on helping migrants can be taken "off the books" under EU public spending rules and things like calculating debt and deficits.

"We definitely believe there is a special case here and we will be making it strongly," Ms Fitzgerald said.

Ms Fitzgerald also made it clear the Government did not take exception to a reference to Ireland by EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, in his hard-hitting speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday.

"In fact, President Juncker paid tribute to Ireland at the end. We have voluntarily declared our readiness," she said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) welcomed the Government announcement. Sophie Magennis, of UNHCR in Dublin, said it was helpful at both a national and international level.

"It's very welcome that the Irish has made this announcement, that they've made an indication of relocation numbers that is likely to be above what the European Commission would have asked of Ireland," she told RTE. She added that Ireland had voluntarily opted into the scheme.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland also welcomed it, saying Irish people had an outpouring of goodwill towards stricken migrants.

The council warned that the challenge now was to deliver appropriate services and facilities quickly.

"We need systems which will allow those refugees who have been torn apart from their families to be reunited in Ireland when their loved ones are found in North Africa, on boats on the Mediterranean or in other parts of Europe," Brian Killoran of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said.

Irish Independent

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