Monday 23 October 2017

New garda unit sent to overseas camps to interview refugees

CRYING OUT FOR HELP: A young Syrian refugee on a makeshift swing in Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria
CRYING OUT FOR HELP: A young Syrian refugee on a makeshift swing in Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Gardai and up to 20 civil servants have been attached to a new unit in the Department of Justice set up last week to oversee the intake of 4,000 refugees to Ireland as the migration crisis deepens.

Detectives from the Garda National Immigration Bureau and other units of the force are to work with civil servants to vet families seeking refuge here.

The new migrant unit will be responsible for co-ordinating the selection of refugees from camps in Jordan, the Lebanon and Turkey, their transport and where to accommodate them in Ireland.

Plans are under discussion to dispatch "selection missions" comprised of civil servants and NGO workers to refugee camps to interview families seeking refuge face-to-face, according to informed sources.

They may also be selected from registration centres being set up by Germany and Austria on the continent. The department already sent two selection missions to the Lebanon in March and July this year to interview displaced Syrian and Iraqi families who wanted to come here.

The department said this weekend that no decision had been made yet on how it planned to select refugees. However, a spokesperson confirmed that a principal officer was appointed as programme director to the new unit last week, who will be supported by a staff of 20 civil servants.

Gardai from the Garda National Immigration Bureau will be involved in vetting the refugees before they are accepted, a process that could take months.

The ultimate decision on who Ireland will accept rests with the Minister for Justice, in consultation with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, through which the applications for resettlement are made.

Of the overall figure of 4,000 announced by the Government last Thursday, 520 are currently being resettled to Ireland under a previously agreed programme.

They were selected by staff from the Department of Justice's office for the promotion of migrant integration, working in conjunction with the UN high commissioner for refugees, who travels to refugee camps in places such as Lebanon to interview people of various nationalities.

A government task force is considering the housing of refugees in the coming months. It is currently examining a range of state-owned options, including army barracks.

The Red Cross has been tasked with evaluating offers from the public to put up refugees, although sources are sceptical of housing refugees in private family homes.

Commercial firms may also be invited to tender to build new accommodation centres.

Sunday Independent

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