I propose to take Questions Nos. 418 and 419 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 were no 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. 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”- and has also established a dedicated Taskforce to resolve the emergency situation on Lesvos effectively and humanely. I welcome both initiatives 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. 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.