Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Questions (415)

Cathal Berry


415. Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his position on the situation pertaining to the refugees in Lesbos; the number Ireland plans to accept; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28906/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

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 there. The very sudden displacement of thousands of people has caused great suffering to those in the camp, as well as posing a huge logistical challenge for the Greek authorities in the midst of the pandemic.

My colleague, the Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, spoke with his Greek counterpart immediately after the fire to offer Ireland's full solidarity and support. The Greek authorities requested assistance from EU Partners in dealing with the immediate humanitarian needs arising from the fire. My Department, through our Embassy in Athens, is in contact with the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy and has confirmed Ireland’s readiness to provide assistance from emergency stocks which we have in place at the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy. The Greek authorities have thanked us for this offer of assistance, and we stand ready to work with them regarding the deployment of the emergency supplies.

In terms of the situation within the camp, Greek authorities have started to transfer refugees and migrants to the Greek mainland in order to reduce overcrowding. In addition, the European Commission has now established a dedicated Taskforce with the aim of resolving the emergency situation on Lesbos effectively and humanely. The Taskforce will work closely with the Greek authorities to build new reception facilities in the coming months, which will be of a European standard and will provide access to healthcare and adequate sanitation.

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. The migration crisis continues to be one of the major challenges confronting the European Union and it needs to be urgently addressed. We must find more sustainable solutions involving consensus among Member States based on solidarity and responsibility. I am committed to continuing to work with our EU partners to resolve these issues and to ensure that humanitarian and legal obligations continue to be met.

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 this initiative by the Commission. The publication of the Migration Pact proposals represents an opportunity to renew and intensify efforts to agree a common approach and put in place more effective and humane arrangements to manage the considerable migratory pressures that Europe continues to face.

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.

In the context of the very difficult situation now arising from the destruction of the Moria refugee camp, the Government has decided that Ireland will welcome refugee families from Greece under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). Up to 50 people in family groups will be resettled following displacement due to the fire. This is in addition to the four unaccompanied minors, to be taken as part of our overall commitment to take 36 unaccompanied minors from Greece.

Officials from the Department of Justice and Equality are liaising with the European Commission on the detail of this commitment, and along with An Garda Síochána will travel to Greece in the coming weeks to make the arrangements.