I am grateful to the Deputy for raising this matter and he will note that my colleague, David Stanton, T.D, Minister for Equality, Immigration and Integration launched this report last month. The report provides us with a valuable insight into public perceptions of migrants and migration in Ireland, and it is encouraging to see the largely positive and welcoming attitudes to migrants. The report reinforces Ireland’s reputation as an open, tolerant and welcoming society, a reputation that is well established.
Migration is good for the State socially, politically and economically. While EU citizens enjoy free movement, there are a number of schemes and policies to facilitate legal migration pathways into Ireland for non-EEA nationals. Many of these people subsequently make their homes here and became naturalised as Irish citizens. Indeed since 2011, over 120,000 people, including just over 27,000 children have been naturalised. It is heartening to read that the public share the view of Government on these issues as demonstrated by our many pathways for legal migration and our supports for international protection applicants and refugees.
We have seen unparalleled international population movements arising from conflict, hunger and climate change. Ireland has played its role in responding to such challenges. From the outset of the migration crisis in Europe, we have demonstrated our commitment to solidarity and to protecting the most vulnerable people. With the approval of the Oireachtas, Ireland opted into two EU Council Decisions on the Relocation programme and we established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme under which the Government pledged to accept a total of 4,000 people into the State. This programme has evolved in response to needs including welcoming minors from the Calais camp, and more recently the ships who have encountered humanitarian difficulties in the Mediterranean.
In addition, operating under discretionary Ministerial powers, the Irish Refugee Protection Programme Humanitarian Admission Programme (IHAP) 2 provides an opportunity to Irish citizens and persons with international protection status who have immediate eligible family members from the UN's list of top 10 major source countries of refugees, to propose to the Minister for these family members to join them in Ireland.
In relation to international protection generally, a proactive approach to reform has been adopted including opting into the Recast reception Conditions Directive, providing the right to work as well as the implementation of a wide range of reforms recommended by the Mc Mahon Working Group.
The Migrant Integration Strategy, which was published by Government on 7 February 2017, offers a blueprint to promote the integration of all migrants who are legally in the State, for the period to 2020. Many of the recommendations in this report will inform the implementation of the strategy.
Ireland will continue to operate a fair and humane immigration and protection policy. The production of the report and its findings further endorses the positive view of our people in ensuring that we play a responsible role not only in our economic development but in managing and providing channels and opportunities to further evolve our modern and diverse society.