Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (127, 131)

Thomas Pringle


127. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if assistance will be provided and matters addressed in relation a recent incident (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26071/20]

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Richard Boyd Barrett


131. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will engage with the Greek authorities with a view to helping relocate more of the refugees, particularly unaccompanied minors displaced from the Moria camp in Greece; and if he will implore the Greek authorities to make sure that minors are registered as minors and not as adults; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26266/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 131 together.

I am deeply saddened by the fire at the Moria camp on Lesbos and the impact this has had on the refugees and migrants based at the camp. It is a relief that there are no reported deaths or injuries, but the very sudden displacement of thousands of people, including children, has caused great suffering and created a major humanitarian emergency as well as posing a huge logistical challenge for the Greek authorities in the midst of the COVID pandemic.

My colleague, the Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, spoke with his Greek counterpart on 9 September immediately after the fire to offer Ireland's full solidarity and support. The Greek authorities have requested assistance from EU Partners in dealing with the immediate humanitarian needs arising. My Department, through our Embassy in Athens, has confirmed Ireland’s readiness to provide assistance from our humanitarian logistics base in Brindisi, Italy. The Greek authorities have thanked us for our offer of assistance and we now stand ready to respond to a request for the deployment of emergency humanitarian supplies.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have repeatedly urged the need for greater solidarity and burden-sharing among Member States in dealing with the wider issue of migration. On 23 September 2020, the Commission published a major new proposal on reforming the EU migration and asylum system - a “New Pact on Migration and Asylum”. I welcome the release of this Pact and the renewed impetus that it will give to arriving at an agreed common approach to this difficult issue. We need to find more sustainable solutions involving consensus among Member States based on solidarity and responsibility. Ireland is committed to continue to work with our EU partners to resolve these issues. In the meantime, it is essential that humanitarian and legal obligations continue to be met by all Member States.

We in Ireland are endeavouring to do our part, having already received 1022 asylum seekers (including six unaccompanied minors) from Greece under the first phase of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. We have also committed to accept 36 unaccompanied minors in need of international protection in Greece, and I was pleased that the first group of eight such minors arrived in Ireland last June. In the context of the very difficult situation now arising from the destruction of the Moria refugee camp, the Government has decided to accept another group of four unaccompanied minors, as part of this overall commitment, and is continuing to keep under review what further actions it can take to meet the enormous humanitarian and relocation needs arising from this tragic event.