Wednesday 21 March 2018

'Ireland could take in more than 1,800 refugees' - Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

David Kearns

Ireland will take at least 1,800 refugees said Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who warned the government would likely have to foot the bill for supporting any refugees accepted.

Ms Fitzgerald said the refugee crisis demanded “the most comprehensive response" and that the number of refugees expected to come to Ireland was “clearly going to increase”.

“It needs to. We’ve already seen a 50pc increase in the numbers claiming asylum this year,” the Minister told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Read More: Coalition caves on taking in refugees

“The numbers are clearly going to increase, they have to increase to deal with the humanitarian crisis.

“It’s very hard to put a number on it, we want to respond in as a humanitarian way as possible."

Read More: It's time the Irish people took a stance on the refugee crisis

Asked if Ireland would take in extra numbers Ms Fitzgerald said it was hard to put a precise figure on it but added: “We could agree to it – the Irish people are demanding it.

“The country was asked to take in 600 out of the 40,000 – that was just a first step, Ireland came seventh in the numbers of people we were willing to take.

“If the figure of 150,000 is put on the table, that will effectively mean a trebling of what we have committed to already.

"[But] if that figure triples then that will bring us to 1800... [and] I believe that is a minimum of the response we will be making next week."

Minister Fitzgerald's comments come before an EU meeting due to take place on Monday week where member states will be discussing new plans to tackle the ongoing refugee crisis.

Read More: Anger as Hungary refuses to allow migrants to travel to Western Europe

It is understood that France and Germany will present a plan that will see other EU states encouraged to take in more refugees.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Government had a "positive attitude towards mandatory quotas".

Pushed on how the government would fund taking in more refugees, Ms Fitzgerald said Ireland could expect to get some financial assistance from the EU but that “clearly this will demand additional resources”.

“A lot of [Irish] people expressed concern when we mentioned the figure of 600 but we need to address this issue with a measured response.

Read More: EU needs to work out a generous migrant quota and then stick to it

“There are resource issues - we’re coming from a situation where there has been high levels of unemployment – and any discussions at the EU level will take account of this - but I think people are coming at this now from a situation of life and death and we have to do everything we can with the resources we can make available.

"But clearly we need to deal with our own homeless crisis as well," she added.

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