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Sunday 4 December 2016

We face ‘big challenges’ if 600 migrants resettle here – Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Ministers Simon Coveney, Frances Fitzgerald and Sean Sherlock with crew of the LE Eithne after docking in Valetta, Malta
Ministers Simon Coveney, Frances Fitzgerald and Sean Sherlock with crew of the LE Eithne after docking in Valetta, Malta

JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that Ireland, like other European countries, has “big challenges” to overcome if up to 600 migrants from the Mediterranean crisis are to be resettled here.

The number of migrants is double the amount previously announced by Government, but the minister revealed on Tuesday that European Union plans may see Ireland taking the increased numbers.

She said that the migrants, who have been rescued from drowning on the dangerous journey from North Africa, will ultimately be accommodated in the controversial direct provision centres.

The centres have received criticism on everything from the food served to the suitability of the accommodation for young families.

The slow pace of processing  asylum applications has seen some immigrants living in the centres for years.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins TD said that he agrees with the minister’s rationale but said that those who arrive seeking asylum must be dealt with “in a timely manner.”

“The significant delays in the direct provision system must be addressed,” he added.

Ms Fitzgerald revealed the number of refugees Ireland would take from the Mediterranean as she visited the Irish Naval vessel the LE Eithne in Malta. Its crew have saved almost 3,400 lives off the North African coast since mid-May.

She confirmed that the rescued migrants coming here will be housed in direct provision centres “as is the normal procedure in Ireland”.

Improvements

“Ireland uses direct provision and obviously we’ve just got a report on direct provision and some of the improvements that can be made,” she said.

“Obviously accommodation in direct provision in Ireland is very close to full at present as well.

“So there are big challenges for every country. Right now we have full accommodation for people when they arrive and they are put through the process obviously of assessment for asylum seeking.

“Not everybody who arrives qualifies as asylum seekers. Some are economic migrants and the European Union is stressing return policy as well.”

Ms Fitzgerald said that there are discussions in the EU as to whether member states resettling migrants should be mandatory or voluntary, but that Ireland’s quota would be around 600.

The Irish Government is considering the matter and is due to come to a decision at the end of the month.

She said it would be a “once-off measure” and that Ireland has been at “the forefront in terms of settlement”.

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