Tuesday 23 January 2018

Strict vetting for refugees who come to Ireland as crisis deepens

A man carries a child as refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. Photo: AP
A man carries a child as refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. Photo: AP
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The Government will insist on strict vetting of refugees seeking to be relocated as part of the European Union's response to the migrant crisis, the Irish Independent has learned.

It is also understood a Government taskforce will be established to co-ordinate the cross-departmental work involved in housing refugees in the coming months.

The group will be responsible for overseeing the Coalition's refugee implementation plan, which is still being drafted.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will convene a special Cabinet meeting tomorrow to discuss Ireland's response to the worst humanitarian disaster to hit Europe in decades.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Kenny said he would not "quibble" over the number of refugees this country would accept and insisted: "Ireland will do what it can."

Today, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to unveil his expectations of member states, which will give the basis for how many refugees Ireland will be expected to accommodate.

A memo is also being drafted by the Department of Justice ahead of a crunch meeting of justice ministers in Brussels next week. At the meeting, it is understood the Government will insist that thorough background checks are carried out on all migrants seeking accommodation in Ireland.

This is the first time the EU will ask member states to take in refugees from countries where vetting has not already taken place.

And there is concern that up to 15pc of those seeking to live in Ireland may not be genuine refugees.

"In the normal course of events you would be doing security checks, finger printing and so on, you don't give up all that," a Government source said.

However, the Coalition is anxious to fast-track as many applications as possible so as to alleviate any unnecessary hardships for those escaping wars.

The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) and other immigration services will be provided with additional resources to facilitate the increased demand.

The Government is examining a range of accommodation options as part of its response and it is understood the Department of Justice has received offers from the public to house refugees in their own homes and in holiday homes.

The department will create a data bank of the public offers, which will be evaluated in the coming weeks.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach dismissed claims that the Coalition was split over how to address the crisis.

"There is absolutely no split in what we want to do as a Government. We want to deal with caring with people who are fleeing from horrific circumstance," he said.

Mr Kenny was speaking alongside Tánaiste Joan Burton at a jobs announcement.

Ms Burton, who suggested Ireland would accommodate more than 5,000 migrants, said there was an "openness in relation to the figures".

She said this figure took into account reuniting families with loved ones who were still in war zones after they had been accommodated in Ireland.

Mr Kenny said the photograph depicting the tragic death of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed up on a beach in Turkey, shocked politicians into action.

"We don't want to get bogged down in statistics - this is about humanity. Would you send your children across the Irish Sea in a rickety boat when you know they are never going to get there," he said.

"So what we will do this week is to have a special Cabinet meeting to deal and focus on making decisions."

Irish Independent

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