Written Answers. - Programme Refugees.

Ivor Callely

Question:

86 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the success of Ireland's response to the intake of programme refugees; the number of these refugees who have participated in programmes that have assisted their integration over the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22203/98]

Since the admission of a limited number of Hungarian refugees in the 1950s, Ireland has responded to particular international humanitarian crises by admitting a number of different groups of refugees. These groups include, as stated, Hungarians in the 1950s, Iranian Baha'is in 1985, Vietnamese in the 1980s and Bosnians in the 1990s. Decisions to admit such groups, known as programme refugees, are taken by Government usually in response to appeals from international agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The main groups of programme refugees at present in Ireland are the Vietnamese and the Bosnians. In 1979, 212 Vietnamese refugees were admitted from refugee camps in Hong Kong and Malaysia. There are 603 Vietnamese living here including 155 children born in Ireland. This figure also includes relatives who joined family here through the family reunification programme. Similarly, 178 Bosnian programme refugees arrived in Ireland in September 1992. The number of Bosnians living in Ireland is 868, including 58 children born here and relatives who have arrived under the family reunification programme. These figures illustrate the extent to which the family reunification programme has contributed to the integration of both communities. In this respect, the finding of a recent survey of the Vietnamese and Bosnian communities in Ireland identified the family reunification programme as an important element of resettlement for the refugees. In addition the survey found that the granting of Irish citizenship is one of the crucial features in a successful resettlement programme. Programme refugees become eligible to apply for Irish citizenship after three years residence in Ireland. The majority of the Vietnamese are now Irish citizens. To date, 174 Bosnians have been granted Irish citizenship.

For the past ten years, English language training has been provided for the Vietnamese at the Vietnamese Irish Association Community Centre in Dublin. These classes are funded by the Department of Education and Science through the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee. Language support is provided as required on a peripatetic basis for children attending primary school.

The majority of Bosnian adults have attended English language training at private language schools funded by the Department of Education and Science. Bosnian children go directly to primary and post-primary schools. Language support is also provided for these children on a peripatetic basis.
A new EU funded project, Interact Ireland, was established in 1997 on a partnership basis between the Refugee Agency, FÁS, Trinity College and refugee NGOs. This project works in close co-operation with the Department of Education and Science in co-ordinating progress for refugees from language training courses through supported vocational training into employment and self-sufficiency.
The Bosnian and Vietnamese refugee communities have both established their own community associations — the Bosnian Community Development Project and the Vietnamese Irish Association. These bodies organise social and cultural events and activities and provide support and assistance in the resettlement process.
The overall policy of the Government is to support the integration into Irish society of programme refugees in a manner that strengthens their independence and allows them to make a positive contribution to Ireland.