Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 12 Jul 2022

Vol. 1025 No. 3

Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on the European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, to accept the following measure:

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No. 514/2014 laying down general provisions on the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund amending Regulation (EU) 514/2014 laying down general provisions on the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and on the instrument for financial support for police cooperation, preventing and combating crime, and crisis management and amending Regulation (EU) No. 516/2014 establishing the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and amending Regulation (EU) 2021/1147 establishing the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund,

a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 30th June, 2022.

Today, I am seeking the approval of the House to proceed with the formal opt-in to the amendments to the 2014 to 2020 and the 2021 to 2027 programmes of the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, AMIF. Under the AMIF, the EU provides financial support for a comprehensive approach to the management of migration in the European Union. As the House will be aware, Ireland is required to opt in formally to certain EU home affairs instruments under arrangements in place for non-Schengen member states. This includes the new 2021 to 2027 AMIF programme.

The opt-in process requires both Government and Oireachtas approval. Following Oireachtas debate and approval on 3 February 2022, Ireland agreed to opt in to the 2021 to 2027 programme. The European Commission accepted Ireland's opt-in on 27 March 2022. However, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has adopted amendments to the AMIF regulation to support member states to manage the arrival of displaced persons from Ukraine. Ireland may be able to access €500,000 by virtue of these amendments and this can be allocated to projects to support the integration of Ukrainian displaced persons.

Opting in to this amendment is important to signal Ireland's ongoing support for and participation in the AMIF programme. I obtained Government approval at the Government meeting last week and this motion is being moved in both Houses of the Oireachtas today. Each member state participating in the fund must produce a national programme setting out its objectives and plans for how the funding will be deployed. The national programmes are normally drafted following consultations with relevant interests in the state, including non-governmental organisations, as well as with the European Commission, which is responsible for overseeing the administration of the fund generally.

Subject to approval for the opt-in, my Department will, over the coming months, lead the development of a national programme for Ireland for the 2021 to 2027 AMIF. The new national programme will cover the main areas of the fund: asylum, legal migration, integration, resettlement, countering irregular migration, returns and solidarity measures. In developing the new national programme, my Department will consult stakeholders in the areas of asylum, migration and integration, including relevant NGOs and Departments, including the Department of Justice, which will continue to manage funded activities in the area of migration and return. Subject to Oireachtas approval of the opt-in, the relevant EU bodies will be informed and work on the national programme can begin.

I commend the motion to the House.

The invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 has led to a mass influx of displaced persons to several EU member states. This has placed renewed pressure on the financial resources of the member states to deal with migration and border management needs.

The increased pressure is already being felt across member states that share a land border with Ukraine and the needs have been spreading further afield. The overall objective of this proposal, as the Minister said, is to support member states to address the consequences of war in Ukraine by facilitating access to unspent financial resources. Council implementing decision No. 382 of 2022 was adopted, "establishing the existence of a massed influx of displaced persons from Ukraine within the meaning of Article 5 of Directive 2001/55/EC, and having the effect of introducing temporary protection". This implementing decision has clarified that the efforts of member states to comply with their obligations and offer temporary protection will be supported by the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

I want to address a few issues in regard to the White Paper on ending direct provision, which was introduced in February 2021. At the time of its publication, the White Paper was long overdue and there was much anticipation and expectation that there would finally be meaningful reform of a broken system. It is disappointing, 18 months later, that little or no reform has been undertaken. We welcomed the White Paper at the time because direct provision is a shameful and cruel system that has caused serious harm to many asylum seekers and wider communities. We need a modern, humane system that is fit for purpose. The White Paper contained many positive proposals, which we welcomed, including alignment of welfare rates with existing benefits, the provision of driver's licences for asylum seekers and a reduction in the reliance on private operators, one of which had obtained, through direct provision, the sum of €400 million over a period of years. The White Paper emphasised the importance of care and supports and, crucially, proposed a non-adversarial approach to applicants.

However, we pointed out at the time that the White Paper was lacking in ambition in a number of key areas. We asked that applicants be required to wait three months rather than six months before entering the labour market. We expressed disappointment at the granting of leave to remain for only five years for people who had been in the system more than two years. Many asylum seekers who were working in healthcare and food were anxious about facing deportation. In particular, we were concerned that the length of time people would remain in reception centres would be longer than four months if there was not a front-loading of capital investment in own-door accommodation and accelerated delivery of same. We were concerned about the White Paper's failure to address the growing problem of those with leave to remain who were trapped in direct provision. We called for greater supports to remove those families and ensure they were not subjected to entirely unnecessary and unfair delays.

There have been many critics of the direct provision system over the years, including very highly qualified individuals and organisations focused on supporting asylum seekers. The Government has not listened closely enough to those people and has entrenched a system that has been known to fail in the past. Dr. Geoffrey Shannon, a former special rapporteur on child protection, has called for direct provision for be abolished, noting it is not a suitable long-term solution. It has been described by the Irish Refugee Council as "already a chapter in Ireland's long and dark history of institutional living". Using for-profit accommodation providers has only added to the cruelty of the system. The Irish Refugee Council has stated that any replacement for direct provision should offer "own door accommodation, the opportunity to cook for oneself, to live in a community". The Department of Justice, which had responsibility for the direct provision system at the time, introduced regulations in this regard in August 2019. In July 2022, however, we still see the same problems, with people not having their own accommodation, being unable to cook for themselves and not being part of a community.

Three direct provision accommodation centres have been built in recent years. We all remember what happened when a large number of asylum seekers were moved into a former hotel in Cahersiveen, County Kerry. Approved housing bodies, AHBs, are clearly the best model, providing dignity and a sense of self and home and enabling asylum and refuge seekers to live a meaningful life. Any future policy that relies heavily on the private sector will repeat the mistakes of the past. I urge the Government not to repeat those mistakes. It is essential that it be transparent regarding the provision of all housing and the transition from the old direct provision model to any new system.

Direct provision was supposed to be a short-term measure designed to house people for weeks, not years, but half of the children in the direct provision system in 2019 had been there for more than five years. At that time, the Children's Rights Alliance, Dr. Liam Thornton of University College Dublin, UCD, and the Irish Countrywomen's Association all argued that direct provision does not have the best interests of children at its core and is a violation of the rights of the child, and that there is a need for access to complementary services. Some of those concerns were met in the White Paper but, unfortunately, 18 months since its publication and three years after the concerns were raised, we are still seeing the use of accommodation centres in very isolated areas.

Many of the asylum seekers who have come to my office say they are grateful to be in Ireland but that they quickly felt abandoned and lost in the system. They are concerned they have spent weeks and months waiting for answers via official channels. They do not have access to broadband, which makes it very expensive and stressful for them to communicate with Government bodies. All the while, they are receiving a very small amount of money from the State. Transportation to hospital or urgent appointments is also a very expensive proposition. They are reliant on Government resources such as the Tralee International Resource Centre, which provides invaluable help because there is nobody else to help them.

Direct provision is, in general, provided in sub-par accommodation in which residents are expected to share bedrooms and bathrooms, with little concern for the reasons they sought asylum in the first place. Many of them feel isolated. A single pregnant woman was sent to rural Kerry, for example, with no consideration as to how she would travel to her prenatal appointments. The travel cost was more than her weekly allowance, meaning much of her care was forgone. The provision of counselling to help her cope with the reasons she was alone and pregnant in Ireland was not even an afterthought. Many residents of direct provision refer to problems with shared kitchen resources, where facilities are often closed early in the evening and food is lost or stolen. Families may be living three to six to a single room, with some people sleeping on the floor. There is no capacity for children to play games, draw, write or even learn how to eat sitting at a kitchen table with any consistency or pleasure. Complaints from residents are met with threats of deportation or removal to a different location. One person faced the prospect of being moved to a container in Athlone, away from any small stability or community the individual had managed to establish.

We have not offered any respect for, or understanding of, people's culture but they must meet our the expectations of our culture. I urge the Minister at this late stage not to use the private sector as much as has been the case. He should use the State bodies and AHBs because they offer the best model for providing dignity and a sense of self and home.

The importance of a well-resourced and co-ordinated approach to asylum and integration has been strongly reinforced since we discussed this fund in February. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis, with millions of displaced people. We can be proud of the speedy response from people in the State. Whole communities have mobilised to provide assistance and recent Ukrainian arrivals have already started to contribute and work.

The challenge for the Government is to pivot from an emergency response to a long-term integration plan. Too often, immediate solutions become permanent problems. Direct provision was supposed to be a temporary process but, more than 21 years later, that inhumane system remains. Many Ukrainian families are in student accommodation or hotels with short contracts. What happens when those spaces are no longer available? Regrettably, the Department is not moving quickly enough on offers of accommodation and potential sites for use.

Confusion and misinformation facilitate those who want to stoke xenophobia and far-right ideologies. Unfortunately, some Members of this House are playing the old card of attempting to pitch vulnerable groups against each other. Linking refugees and the housing crisis is a spurious and insincere argument. The housing disaster is a decade old and is the result of failed policies, primarily from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael but also from the Labour Party and the Green Party, involving a collapse in the building of social housing, leaving homes to fall into disrepair and facilitating vulture funds over families. These are the causes of the housing crisis, not refugees. We have an obligation to be responsible and factual when discussing these issues.

Human trafficking is in the headlines today after the Olympian, Mo Farah, spoke publicly about being trafficked to the UK and forced into servitude. Unfortunately, this abhorrent crime and human rights abuse also happens in Ireland. The US State Department's Trafficking in Persons annual report for 2021 assessed Ireland as being a tier 2 country, which means we do not fully comply with the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to be in compliance.

Even more concerning is that we dropped from being a tier 1 country in 2018 and we are now on what is called a tier 2 watch list because "The government continued to have systemic deficiencies in victim identification, referral, and assistance, and lacked specialised accommodation and adequate services for victims".

These findings are supported by the recent report of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, on the implementation of the EU anti-trafficking directive. It highlights the need for greater co-ordination from the Department of Justice, new mechanisms for the identification of victims, secure gender-specific shelter and avoiding secondary victimisation in the criminal justice system. There have been 475 known cases of trafficking since 2013, including 34 children. Almost two thirds of these are women, with sexual exploitation being a leading cause. Labour exploitation is the most common feature. Crucially, this issue needs a social response. While our criminal law aspects are strong, the systems to assist and support victims remain insufficient and lack a statutory footing. As part of this process, the voices of survivors must be at the centre of the policy, with the establishment of dedicated survivor counselling, as recommended by IHREC.

I urge the Government to use the fund to work on the issues identified by the commission, the US State Department and others to support victims and survivors. This issue of prioritising where to spend money relates to my larger reservations regarding AMIF. One of the fund’s objectives is to contribute to countering irregular migration and ensuring the effectiveness of return and readmission in third countries. Embedded in the EU's response are hostile processes and structures that facilitate crime, push vulnerable people into the hands of criminals and lead to deaths, such as the regular drownings in the Mediterranean Sea. These are still happening, even if they do not make the headlines. There needs to be a serious critique of migration management systems in Ireland and the EU and their role in increasing human suffering.

While I welcome any discussion of these important matters, I am unclear regarding the implications of the amendment for Ireland. This is a democratic deficit. My comments are based on the EU’s document, rather than on an understanding of any policy implications. This session, regrettably, is a technical function rather than anything meaningful. The Minister needs to issue policy papers and budget breakdowns before discussions such as this one, if they are to be anything more than tokenism.

I will use this opportunity to speak about the reality of the EU’s migration policy, which is not, unfortunately, in keeping with the image it would like to present to us: that of it being one concerned with humanitarianism and welcoming refugees fleeing war and persecution. Instead, it is a consistent record of racism, of Fortress Europe and of trying to keep people out. Often, these are people fleeing the consequences of policies adopted by countries in the West. I refer to trying to keep those people out at any cost, including massive humanitarian costs and great loss of life.

What happened at the Spanish enclave of Melilla, at the border with Morocco, a few weeks ago sums up the situation. Moroccan border guards, paid for by the EU as part of the policy of externalisation of EU borders, were managing a situation where 37 refugees died trying to flee from war and persecution. They died either by being crushed against the fences in some cases, or, in others, by being beaten to death by those border guards, who are funded to the tune of €100 million by the EU. This is the true face of the Union’s migration policy. We can see the same thing when we look at the EU’s deal with Libya or Turkey. Massive amounts have been given to fund border guards to externalise EU borders, resulting in horrendous treatment of those trying to flee war and persecution. Over the past five years, violations by the Libyan coast guard have been repeatedly filmed and recounted by victims and eyewitnesses, including shootings at heavily-laden inflatable boats, beatings of people during disembarkation, the throwing of petrol cans onto boats and those people then facing being detained in Libya’s brutal detention system.

Even within the borders of the EU, look at what is happening in Greece. I ask the Minister and the Government to commit to being in favour of an independent and transparent investigation into the clear breaches of EU law being undertaken by the Greek state. Let us look, for example, at the clear policy that exists of pushbacks. These are, as the Minister will be aware, where a coast guard or a border body of some sort push refugees back out into international waters after they have come into Greek or European territory to make them someone else’s problem. It is illegal, but it is a definite policy of the Greek Government. The UN’s special rapporteur on migrants stated that in Greece "pushbacks at land and sea borders have become de facto general policy".

In mid-March 2022, 30 Syrian asylum seekers, including two pregnant women and seven children, were confined on an islet in the River Evros for six days following an alleged pushback operation by the Greek authorities. Even if refugees manage to get into Greece, they are then taken into an EU-funded, so-called migration centre, worth €43 million, in Samos. This migration centre in reality is a detention centre for migrants. According to Oxfam, approximately one in five people have been in de facto detention for two months. Effectively, it is deliberately far away from towns and villages and completely isolated. There is excessive use of security, constant CCTV monitoring of all residents and an 8 p.m. curfew. It is horrendous treatment and it is EU funded.

Let us take the example of the way those who try to act in the interests of human rights and the rights of refugees are treated, including Seán Binder. There are many others, but we know of Mr. Binder because he is from Ireland. He is still facing trial. It has now been delayed and this is part of a tactic of intimidating people from engaging in helping migrants. For helping migrants, Mr. Binder is facing a prison sentence of up to 25 years if found guilty. This is the reality of what EU migration policy is. At the very least, I would like the Minister to consider or investigate the idea of supporting the Oxfam call. It has made a complaint to the European Commission concerning infringements of EU law by Greece. That complaint is detailed. It has a table and goes through all the breaches one by one. It is very long because all the breaches are long. I urge the Minister to commit to the Government supporting an independent investigation into these breaches.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute on this important issue. History has shown, since we have started taking in asylum seekers, that the conditions under which they have been living are not right. Human rights issues have not been addressed. We have placed people and families in congregated settings. For whatever reason, we have put them in buildings where they live in dormitories. They are isolated from communities. It takes a lot of time to get them to a stage where they are accepted and integrated into communities. Measures such as having curfews imposed on people to be inside at certain times of the evenings can be seen and are seen as a scandal in our time. The Minister is well aware of the issues with the mother and baby homes and with what we are trying to deal with, and what he as the Minister has been trying to deal with. We do not want to see anything like that happening again in our society. At times with asylum seekers, we are bordering on doing things that are not right.

This brings me to another concern I have. At present, we are bringing Ukrainian migrants into the country, which is right, but we are putting them into questionable accommodation. We are putting them into hotels and places where they have a bed and perhaps an ensuite and that is it.

I know many people have offered housing and volunteered to let families stay in their homes. The process of making sure that Ukrainians are integrated into our society will take a lot of effort. At a time when we have crises in housing and with the cost of living, it is important in whatever we do that we deal with these people as individuals who have suffered a great deal, have been discommoded and have left their homes, families and country to come to Ireland.

If we are to learn anything, we have to go back in time and history. When our ancestors left Ireland never to return to these shores and were forced to travel to America because there was no work here, some were treated well and others not so well. We were very upset about that. At the same time, we should be very upset if our nation, Government and State do not provide properly for human beings coming into this country. We pride ourselves on our generosity and on making sure that take people in and embrace strangers. We need to go back to basic principles. When people are coming to this county we should try to provide them with accommodation that is suitable for them to live in and raise their families and allow them to integrate into the communities that are embracing them. A huge effort will have to made. This debate sets out the concerns Deputies have about how we treat people coming into the country who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a position where their lives have been turned upside down causing them to suffer enormous trauma.

The other issue I have come across is that of people with disabilities and children with special needs coming to Ireland from Ukraine. It is important that we integrate them into the services that are available as fast as possible. We should also take into account that the services are very much stretched in trying to deal with domestic demand. There is a lot to contemplate in this debate. We should all work together and not politicise this issue in any way.

I am glad to be able to speak on this sensitive and important topic. The issue of reception centres has been dogging us for a long number of years. There is a centre in Carrick-on-Suir which has changed and adapted and become very good and the people in it have integrated well. However, in times to come, I do not think history will be kind to us as a nation for the way we have treated asylum seekers in general. That goes without saying.

We look at the legacies of the past and talk about the Magdalen laundries and other such issues but on this issue we have taken a ham-fisted and badly organised approach. The White Paper produced in this area gave people hope that there would be changes. It was very aspirational and very little seems to have happened. This is not a personal criticism of the Minister. We have seen the appalling circumstances from which people are trying to flee, including war and devastation. We have seen graphic images of people on sinking boats and the huge loss of life. These people walked for days and weeks and having saved whatever money they could, paid unscrupulous people who then put them on boats that were not fit for purpose. That is traumatic enough without having to deal with arriving here and not being treated with a modicum of dignity and respect.

I have been criticised in the past for saying we should have limits. I say this in the context that we should cut our cloth according to measure and should look after people properly and with a modicum of respect. As I said, we have not done that. Private entrepreneurs got involved, some of whom were very good while others were desperate and awful. Millions of euro have been poured into the coffers of private individuals to do this. I know where they are and it is not far from where we stand. In a town not far from here, by the seaside, people have been treated appallingly. They have been put in big rooms divided into three parts and handed curry and chips in a plastic bag, with the use of vending machines at night. It is shocking. I wonder who is overseeing this to make sure these people are treated properly. This is no way to treat visitors who come here. We have travelled the world with an expectation of a modicum of support. A lot of work needs to be done to ensure these people are treated with dignity and respect, as they must be if we are to have any self-respect.

I am also glad to speak on this issue. AMIF was set up for the period from 2021 to 2027 and funding amounts to €9.9 billion. The fund aims to further boost national capacities and improve procedures for migration management, as well as enhance solidarity and responsibility sharing between member states, particularly those providing emergency assistance.

Since 2017, nearly 100,000 men, women and children have been intercepted at sea by coastguard vessels supported by EU surveillance and forcibly returned to Libya, a failed state. They are often locked up in detention centres that have been compared to concentration camps by Pope Francis among others. Politicians and officials who hold the levers of power know what is happening. They know it is horrific but are unwilling to act.

I have spoken before about direct provision in this country and the way it has been rolled out. I know there is an excellent centre in Clonakilty where people are treated humanely and with a bit of respect. I thank those in Clonakilty who are both living and working there. There have been other direct provision centres over the years that have been nothing short of shocking.

If people are in trouble and are coming from a war-torn country, we should by all means give them a welcome in Ireland but there have to limits set, especially if they are being treated disrespectfully when they come to this country. We do not have the facilities for a huge number of people. Unfortunately, it has been proven in the past that the management in direct provision centres has placed large numbers of families in a single bedroom or similar, which was not fair to those people.

Perhaps this fund will be used to rectify many of those issues. If that happens, well done but there a lot left to be desired. Not all of the Ukrainians who have come to this country have been treated well and that will need to be addressed. They need to be treated with the utmost respect.

Although I agree with the principles of the amendment to AMIF, I am sceptical of the pact on which it is based. I am concerned that it will only further reinforce European policies focused on externalisation, deterrence, containment and return.

Following the mass influx of displaced persons from Ukraine, I understand the need for increased financial aid and that facilitating access to financial resources under AMIF is badly needed. However, I am also aware that accelerated border procedures, when implemented, often go hand in hand with reduced fundamental rights, standards and safeguards. The fund will provide €500,000, which is not a huge amount and perhaps we will lose a lot more by adopting the regulations.

The proposals put forward by the European Commission acknowledges that increased migratory pressure, including from reception and asylum processing procedures, is already being acutely felt by member states. I am worried that by the acceleration of border and fast-track procedures, the idea of a human being will be lost. We do not want a case where applicants are dehumanised and treated only as a number.

We see the behaviour of Frontex on the European borders, especially around Greece, pushing people back into the sea in order that they do not land and are not counted among the asylum seekers entering Europe. That is not any way I would want any agency to behave in my name, and I hope the Government is not in favour of that either, but it is happening regularly and this is an agency that Ireland is supportive of and that we fund. That is wrong, and anything we do in accessing or accepting this funding should be specifically on condition that we are not supportive of those kinds of measures because that is a problem. I hope the Minister will take that on board because what is happening there is appalling. We need only see the work of Mick Wallace MEP and Clare Daly MEP in that regard. They are highlighting the issues arising in Greece every day. Every day we talk about asylum and we welcome Ukrainians, as we have to do, asylum seekers from Syria and Afghanistan are being pushed back into the sea and made sink or swim in our name. That is completely wrong.

There are a lot of great groups and projects which are currently funded through the asylum, migration and integration fund. I just hope that funds are not being taken away from such groups in this proposed process. We have the capacity to ensure that asylum seekers and migrants from all countries are accommodated in a respectful manner that has regard to their human rights. A human rights approach should be taken towards all proposals and decisions that affect our European borders. The proposal states that it seeks to unblock access to unspent amounts previously earmarked for specific purposes under the AMIF. However, it does not go on to state exactly what the funds were earmarked for. I would be interested to hear whether the Minister has an answer to that.

I believe we are in need of far more transparency in general regarding these European funds. We should be given a list of projects we are supporting to ensure all asylum seekers and migrants are treated equally under the fund and to ensure money in the fund is not used up by concentration-type camps, migrant camps and security and building companies and, as I said, for Frontex to behave in the way it does regarding migrants on our borders.

I support the motion in principle. I call, however, for better transparency and a focus on a human rights approach.

I thank all Members for their engagement on, and their contributions, to this issue. I wish to take a few moments to restate the benefits of opting into these amendments to the AMIF programme. The fund will help to support a broad range of programmes in the area of asylum, migration and integration in Ireland and the State's response to the Ukraine crisis. It is my intention to build on the success of the 2014-20 AMIF programme and, if I receive approval today, to opt into these amendments. Some of the projects to which I referred earlier demonstrate the scope, scale and benefits of AMIF funding to improve the lives of vulnerable asylum seekers, migrants and third country nationals in Ireland. Subject to the approval of the opt-in, my Department will liaise with NGOs to support these vulnerable individuals and to provide assistance to Ukrainians living here. Additionally, while detailed plans for the full 2021-27 AMIF programme will not be finalised until the national programme is published, it is my intention to explore ways in which the new AMIF funding can be used to implement some of the objectives in the White Paper.

A number of Deputies raised the issue of direct provision and our treatment of international protection applicants. It is a subject we have discussed on a number of occasions in this House. Concerns were raised about the implementation of the White Paper. I will reiterate some of the progress that has been made. Driver licences and bank accounts can now be accessed by those in international protection. The time period within which someone can seek to work has been reduced from nine to six months. Significantly, vulnerability assessments, which were required of Ireland under EU law for a number of years and which were not implemented, are now being offered to all new international protection applicants. Hundreds of vulnerability assessments have taken place and have revealed the types of vulnerability Deputy Canney mentioned. In addition, In the coming weeks we will bring forward new integration supports to support not only local authorities in the work they do on integration but also the work NGOs around the country do. We will bring forward financial support to enhance that work in the context of supporting the integration not only of Ukrainian displaced persons but also of those in the international protection process living in different parts of the country. Addressing that need for more accommodation and better, more appropriate accommodation, we will bring forward the funding mechanism whereby AHBs can apply for funding to deliver phase 2 accommodation. We have been working in a lot of detail with the Housing Agency and with the representative body for AHBs to make sure we can bring forward a funding stream that is accessible to these bodies.

Deputy Cairns was correct regarding the need to pivot from an emergency response to a long-term response. Since February of this year, we have been undertaking two emergency responses: one to the humanitarian needs of Ukrainian displaced persons arriving in our country and one to the needs of international protection applicants, of whom there has been a significant increase arriving in our country. Since the beginning of this year, 6,498 people have sought international protection in our country. Pre-Covid the last major year in this regard was 2019, and in that year 4,800 people sought international protection, so we are already at 160% of 2019's number of applicants and we are just slightly over halfway through the year. There is a major migration crisis across Europe because of the wars that have been discussed here in Afghanistan and in Syria and because of the conflicts in other parts of Africa. That is putting pressure on the system. Our response at the moment is an emergency response. I acknowledge that it is not always the response we want to give to people, but it is a requirement under international law to make sure that we can accommodate people and provide meals to them. We are doing that at a time we are looking to implement the White Paper and to move on the 7,000 people who were in international protection this time last year and, of course, to support those who have obtained status to move and to live independently. There are a wide range of challenges at play here. The passing of this motion, the provision of this financial support, small as Deputy Pringle said it is, adds to our ability to do this. Undoubtedly, there are major challenges in our response to these two crises, but we deal with them in conjunction with NGOs. Earlier today, I met with the Ukraine community forum. I have been in consistent contact with the NGOs working with Ukrainians and with those in international protection. I will continue to engage in that process in order that we can make the best provision for both displaced persons and international protection applicants.

Question put and agreed to.
Top
Share