Friday 24 January 2020

Syrians snub chance to live in Ireland, says Burton

An injured woman reacts at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held area of Old Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Reuters
An injured woman reacts at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held area of Old Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Reuters
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Acting Tánaiste has claimed refugees from the Syrian conflict are snubbing the chance to come to Ireland as they would rather be reunited with family members in other European countries.

Just 10 people out of the planned 2,600 have relocated to Ireland from refugee camps in Greece and Italy under an EU relocation programme.

Joan Burton said the small numbers could be explained by the fact refugees were seeking to join relatives elsewhere.

"They would like to go to friends, relatives and communities and these are, for the most part, in Germany, Austria and the Scandinavian countries. That is what refugees do," she said.

Ms Burton likened the situation to the Irish exodus to the US after the Great Famine.

"They went to America because they had a sense of kith and kin there. They were more economic migrants but in modern-day parlance they would be called refugees," she said.

However, despite the low numbers arriving to date, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald insisted Ireland remained committed to relocating the numbers committed to under the EU plan.

She said the initial pace of relocations had been slow but was beginning to accelerate.

An additional 31 people currently at a camp in Greece have undergone security checks and are expected to arrive in Ireland in the coming weeks.

In the past week a further pledge had been made in relation to another 40 refugees in Greece, she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said Ireland had committed to taking 2,600 refugees under the EU relocation programme by the end of next year and 4,000 overall when other schemes are included.

The minister said the EU relocation programme had faced two main challenges.

The first was the complexity of establishing "hotspot" locations in Greece and Italy to process the refugees.

The second was misinformation spread by people smugglers which encouraged migrants and asylum seekers not to cooperate with the registration process at hotspots.

"As the EU arrangements come on stream with greater numbers claiming asylum, particularly in Greece, the numbers and frequency of arrivals are expected to increase considerably over the coming months," she said.

The pace of relocations was criticised by the Irish Refugee Council, which said the impending arrival of 31 refugees fell far short of commitments made last September.

The council's chief executive, Brian Killoran, said the broad political agreement in the Dáil that Ireland should act with humanity was not being followed through with action.

Irish Independent

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