Ireland records large increase in refugee resettlement but overall numbers remain low

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A new report published today (Tuesday, 13 December 2016) by the ESRI finds that the number of refugees resettled to Ireland doubled between 2015 and 2016. However the overall number resettled remains low, both in the context of the crisis and compared to some other countries in Europe.

The report indicates that Ireland has shown commitment to a European response to the present crisis. Ireland pledged to resettle 520 under the EU programme, almost double the number proposed by the European Commission. As of November 2016, Ireland had resettled 98 per cent of this total, ahead of schedule. The majority of those resettled have been of Syrian origin.

Ireland responded to the refugee crisis by establishing the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), which is now the umbrella under which Ireland’s resettlement programme operates. The IRPP’s remit also includes relocation of asylum applicants from within Europe and the integration of new arrivals. Formal orientation courses and longer-term targeted integration supports are provided for resettled refugees as part of the resettlement programme. Nationally, there have been calls to extend such supports to refugees exiting the direct provision system.

The Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme was also established as a national response to the crisis. It was a once-off private sponsorship scheme for Syrian family members, available for a period in 2014. Although limited in scale it was new in domestic immigration policy and uncommon in an EU context.

The UNHCR and NGOs have called on the Irish Government to create additional legal migration pathways for persons in need of protection, including through family reunification.

UNHCR and others, however, have expressed concern that the International Protection Act 2015 will limit the scope of family reunification for refugees in Ireland. When the Act is fully commenced family reunification will be restricted to a refugee’s immediate family members and a 12 month time limit for applications will be introduced. Where possible, Ireland currently resettles whole nuclear families.

Report author Samantha Arnold noted that:
“This study shows that Ireland has a well-established and respected resettlement programme and that the number of refugees admitted under this programme has increased significantly in recent years. Ireland is also doing well in meeting European-level resettlement commitments ahead of schedule. The private sponsorship programme available in 2014 represented a new and innovative way to bring family members of Syrian nationals to safety in Ireland.

However, in the context of the crisis, Ireland and the EU continue to be criticised for pledging to resettle such a small proportion of those in need of refuge. The forthcoming restriction on family reunification in Ireland will impact negatively on the ability of refugees, including resettled refugees, to reunify with family members left behind.”

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