Saturday 21 April 2018

Just 350 Syrian refugees due to arrive this year

A refugee child at a camp on Greek-Macedonian border. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki
A refugee child at a camp on Greek-Macedonian border. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The expected major influx of Syrian refugees to Ireland has yet to materialise, with just 350 people expected to be resettled here this year.

The number falls well short of the 4,000 people the Government pledged to accept from the conflict zone.

The expected influx has been stymied by issues at hotspots in Italy and Greece, according to officials at the Department of Justice.

So far, one family of 10 has arrived from Greece under the EU relocation programme.

"The family are very happy to be in Ireland and have settled well into their new surroundings," said a department spokesman. A further 20 people have been offered to Ireland by Italy.

Officials said the proposal was being examined.

Each person would go through a screening process in Italy before coming here.

The numbers coming from Italy and Greece are much lower than initially expected.

This is partly due to the fact only a relatively small number of migrants are applying for asylum in Italy and Greece, which is a prerequisite for entry to the relocation programme.

Instead, many have preferred to continue their journey on towards northern Europe.

However, under a separate UN programme, which Ireland has been involved in since 2000, around 330 refugees are expected to arrive here by the end of the year.

These are refugees from camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

Some 189 refugees have already been accepted under this programme since January of last year.

Despite the low numbers, the department insists Ireland will live up to the commitment given by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to take 4,000 people from the war-torn region.

Syrian refugees arriving from Italy and Greece are to be placed in special emergency reception centres when they arrive and will not have to go through the direct provision system.

They will be treated as asylum seekers and the asylum process is expected to take between two and three months to complete, officials said.

"While in these centres, the asylum seekers will be provided with accommodation and full board. Their educational, health and social protection needs will be assessed and assistance offered as appropriate," a department spokesman said.

The relative speed with which they will be processed comes in stark contrast to the direct provision system where in many cases it can take years for a decision on asylum.

Irish Independent

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