I have consistently ensured that Ireland voices its support for EU efforts to put in place more effective and humane arrangements to manage the migratory pressures which the EU continues to face. The EU Commission’s “New Pact on Migration and Asylum” represents an opportunity to renew efforts to put in place such arrangements. Discussions on the Pact are continuing within the Justice and Home Affairs Council though progress to date has been limited. For its part, Ireland has been clear in urging compromise and solidarity with frontline states as well as support for EU efforts to deal with migration in a comprehensive and holistic manner, including through resettlement and increased legal pathways for migration; addressing root causes of migration and reforming the Common European Asylum System.
In regard to the specific situation in Lesbos, in 2019 there were 42,000 people hosted in camps on the Greek islands, in conditions that were extremely difficult. That number is now 14,000, with under 8000 on Lesbos. While this is still too high, and conditions are still a clear issue, strong efforts are being made to further improve the situation. The European Commission has dedicated over €155 million to building new reception centres on Lesbos and Chios, and a further €121 million for smaller centres on Samos, Kos and Leros. These new centres, when finished, will help address the problem of overcrowding.
In December, Ireland also provided UNICEF Greece with a contribution of €225,000 in respect of the response to the Moria fire on Lesbos. This contribution complements the considerable Irish Aid humanitarian support to refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
The situation of refugees on the Greek Islands does not arise directly on the UN Security Council agenda. However, Ireland uses all available opportunities to highlight humanitarian and human rights issues, including the plight of refugees worldwide, through the UN’s structures and in other multilateral formats.
Concerning plans to take in refugees, on 1 October 2020, Minister McEntee announced that Ireland would accept 50 refugees in family groups from Lesbos. Ireland also has an existing commitment to accept 36 unaccompanied minors from Greece. Eight of these minors arrived in Ireland last June. Staff from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, along with staff from Túsla and An Garda Síochána, will travel to Greece in the coming weeks to interview 25 unaccompanied minors and 50 people in family groups, with a view to arranging their relocation to Ireland.