At a recent special Cabinet meeting, the Irish government approved plans to accept over 4000 refugees caught up in the current refugee crisis in Europe. The program is estimated to cost in the region of €50 million per year. The Minister for Justice confirmed that a budget has been allocated to set up refugee welcome centres around the country. Ms Joan Burton, Tánaiste, also confirmed that the intake would be in addition to the UN family reunification program already in process. Previous programs involving family reunification had seen significant numbers of refugees being resettled in Ireland. There would be a focus on fast-tracking women and children.
The Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald,has confirmed that the refugee intake from Europe will not be accommodated by the ‘Direct Provision’ policy. The policy is very controversial, with Human Rights groups claiming that it contravenes the human rights of asylum seekers/refugees. (Direct Provision is intended to provide for the welfare of asylum seekers and their families as they await decisions on their asylum application. It provides essential services, medical care and accommodation and board with three meals a day provided at set times. The standards of accommodation and living conditions vary widely in the 35 centres around the country. Ireland’s policy on refugees and asylum seekers is governed by the Refugee Act 1996.’ (Nasc Ireland, the Irish Immigration Support Centre)
The Tániste, Joan Burton, maintains that the policy for the new arrivals ‘reflected the ethos and history of Ireland’. A network of emergency reception and orientations centres would be set up around the country and the processing of the intake of refugees (who will start arriving by the end of the year) would be co-ordinated by civil society groups, the army and religious organizations. The Justice Minister pointed out that while offers of support from the public and charities were much appreciated, ‘an organised approach will be needed to ensure the support is maximised.’
Ms FitzGerald also pointed out that ‘ the Cabinet recognises and wants to respond to this Humanitarian crisis’.