Thursday, 30 July 2020

Questions (1016)

Duncan Smith

Question:

1016. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the outstanding commitments made under phase 1 of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme 2015-2019 will be realised in the first year of the recently announced phase 2 2020-2023, in particular the 581 persons yet to arrive via the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme. [19592/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

In 2015, as part of Ireland's response to the migration crisis in central and southern Europe, the Government established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). Under this programme, the Government committed to accepting up to 4,000 people into the State, primarily through a combination of the EU Relocation Programme and the UNHCR's Refugee Resettlement Programme. 

A total of 3,358 people have arrived in Ireland to date under the various strands of the IRPP. The remaining 642 allocated commitments under various Strands of the Programme are yet to be completed. My Department is committed to realising these outstanding commitments in line with our obligations under the Programme.

A total of 1,022 people have been welcomed into Ireland under the EU's relocation mechanism, which fulfilled Ireland's commitment to this Strand of the Programme. 

Under the UNHCR-led Resettlement Strand, a commitment was made to resettle 1,985 people, of which 1,913 Resettlements were completed by the end of last year.  A balance of 72 people remain to be resettled from Lebanon and Jordan to meet the full commitment.  Of this, 30 persons had been interviewed and selected during missions to Lebanon and Jordan in 2019.  They were unable to travel, initially due to documentation and health reasons, and subsequently the international travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19.  On the advice of the Defence Forces, it was not possible for staff from my Department to travel to Beirut to complete the selection of this cohort in late 2019.

In March 2020, IRPP staff returned to Ireland from Beirut having successfully interviewed over 220 persons. This selection mission was cut short due to Covid-19 international travel restrictions. The resumption of international arrivals, selection missions and resettlements will take place once it is safe to do so with a view to the impact of Covid-19 travel restrictions.  

Under other mechanisms (the Calais Special Project, Mediterranean Search and Rescue Missions and the admission of Unaccompanied Minors from Greece), a commitment was made to admit 240 people, of which 147 have arrived including 41 unaccompanied minors under the Calais Special Project, which has now concluded.  The International Protection Office and Tusla continue to coordinate the selection and arrival of people under the remaining strands.

Under the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme 2018/19 (IHAP), a commitment was made to admit 740 family members of refugees.  There will be some delay in the completion of the IHAP strand, as those granted permission to travel to Ireland make their own arrangements for travel, the exact timing of which is not known to the Department.  My Department has received several requests for time extensions from IHAP applicants who are experiencing difficulties in obtaining visas or travel documentation for their family members due to the ongoing global pandemic. In such cases my Department has adopted a pragmatic approach and has attempted to facilitate those affected. The total number of IHAP beneficiaries who have arrived in the State to date is 276.

My Department resumed the acceptance of visa applications from Monday 22 June 2020.  Applications are being accepted through our commercial partner, VFS, in seven locations overseas where we have visa offices, as well as in the Dublin Visa office . The seven visa offices overseas are based in China, India, UAE, Turkey, Nigeria, Russia and the United Kingdom. Restrictions remain in place in some of these countries so, where it was not possible to resume from 22 June 2020, these offices intend to resume accepting visa applications as soon as possible. The extent of the resumption of visa services will continue to be decided in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Service Executive (HSE) guidelines both in Ireland and globally.

During the initial phase of re-opening, the visa offices are only accepting Long Stay ‘D’ visa applications, including study, as well as those identified under the current criteria as Emergency/Priority Short Stay visas. Immigration Service Delivery will also endeavour to prioritise visa applications for IHAP beneficiaries. Applicants are advised to contact their local Mission/Visa Office when they are in a position to travel and they will get appropriate advice in terms of the next steps. For up to date information on each location, IHAP beneficiaries are advise to continue to monitor the website of their local Irish Embassy, Mission or Visa Office.

There are a further 13 places not yet allocated to any of the mechanisms mentioned above which will complete Ireland's commitment under the first phase of the IRPP.