No housing priority for asylum seekers says Justice Minister Fitzgerald
Newstalk listeners were up in arms over fears that local housing priority will be given to the 210 Syrian families expected to be given refugee status in Ireland over the next two years.
Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said Ireland would be taking in more refugees in the coming months as part of a wider European plan to help relieve pressure on Italy and Greece.
“These two countries are in crisis… and we can’t stand by when we see people struggling in the water needing to be rescued,” she said.
“It is a world issue but each county must response as best as it can.”
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Minister Fitzgerald said Ireland would contribute to the “ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean” by bringing in refugees directly to live in Ireland from "conflict affected regions".
Her comments however drew the ire of Newstalk listeners as some criticised the decision to house Syrian refugees in Ireland, saying that “if anyone is to be settled in Ireland, the Government should first sort out the housing crisis.”
“Before we start giving housing to these people, maybe we should look to our own and ensure there’s enough for Irish people,” said one irate listener.
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However, Minister Fitzgerald said there was “no question” of any Syrian family taken in by Ireland being “bumped to the top of the housing queue”.
“There’s no question of local authorities giving priority to any of the 210 new families we will be taking in,” she said.
“One of the initiatives we’re taking in relation to our new resettlement programme for Syrian refugees will be to focus on those who already have family members here - one of the key assessments will be how these families will be able to support those arriving.”
Adding: “The issue of housing is extremely complex, as we’ve currently people in Direct Provision, who at present, have been processed and are in need of housing.”
“However, there is no question of those exiting direct provisions, or just arriving here, jumping to the top of the queue.”
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Defending the Direct Provision system, Minister Fitzgerald said, compared to other European countries, Ireland gave refugees a high standard of living.
“We give people accommodation, we provide their children with free primary and secondary level education. There’s access to health care – all of these points need to be remembered when we look at the face of this huge European challenge.”
“The system is far from perfect but these are points that need to be made.”
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A Department of Justice spokesman said some 1,200 "vulnerable people" from 27 different countries, including Iraq and Syria, have been resettled in Ireland since 2000.