Thursday 23 November 2017

We will take in more refugees, the people demand it – Fitzgerald

Alan Kelly speaks to the media about the crisis
Alan Kelly speaks to the media about the crisis

IRELAND will take in “several thousand” more refugees over the coming years in new re-settlement programmes aimed at dealing with the biggest refugee crisis since World War Two.

Several senior ministers, led by the Taoiseach, have confirmed a major U-turn on the Government’s extremely

cautious approach to date.

It comes as the harrowing images of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi being taken from a Turkish tourist beach changed public opinion across Ireland and the world.

However, this morning Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald would not commit to a large figure and said at least 1,800 would come here.

Ms Fitzgerald said the refugee crisis demanded “the most comprehensive response” and that the number of refugees expected to come to Ireland was “clearly going to increase”.

“It needs to. We’ve already seen a 50pc increase in the numbers claiming asylum this year,” she told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

Asked if Ireland would take in extra numbers, Ms Fitzgerald said it was hard to put a precise figure on it but added, “We could agree to it – the Irish people are demanding it.

“The country was asked to take in 600 out of the 40,000 – that was just a first step, Ireland came seventh in the numbers of people we were willing to take.

“If the figure of 150,000 is put on the table, that will effectively mean a trebling of what we have committed to already.

“[But] if that figure triples then that will bring us to 1,800... [and] I believe that is a minimum of the response we will be making next week,” she said.


Labour Party ministers Brendan Howlin and Alan Kelly, along with the junior minister responsible for migrants Aodhan O Riordain, made it clear that the Government will take a share of the 100,000 people across the EU needing re-settlement.

In a speech last night, Mr Kelly said Ireland must now take in far more migrants.

“Ireland should lead the world on this issue,” he said.

Officials said the definitive number of refugees to be taken by Ireland will have to be worked out in the coming weeks ahead of a decisive EU justice ministers’ meeting in 10 days’ time.

After talks in Paris with French president Francois Hollande, Mr Kenny said little Aylan’s image must shock the world into action.

“Any parent could see that child in their own arms,” he said.

The Taoiseach said he will be urging Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to be flexible in her EU negotiations. He said it was impossible at this point to cite numbers ahead of EU negotiations.

Ms Fitzgerald also last night revealed plans by the Government to send a team of immigration officials to so-called European “hotspots” where the migration crisis is most serious.

The officials, some of whom may be civil servants with an expertise in immigration, would help assess the migrants for resettlement in parts of Europe.

Deputy Labour leader Mr Kelly said one of the reasons he was proud to be Irish was the country’s lack of support for anti-immigrant politics.

“It is that lack of anti-immigration sentiment in Ireland that allows us to be one of the leaders in Europe when it comes to facing this challenge,” he said.


“Anyone whose conscience had yet to acknowledge how grave this crisis is will have come to a realisation overnight with the heart-wrenching image of Aylan lifeless on the sands.”

Mr Kelly acknowledged that Ireland has big housing and welfare problems, but he said these difficulties paled when compared with the life-and-death situations faced by thousands of refugees scattered across Europe.

The minister rejected suggestions that this was a “knee-jerk reaction” to the images of Aylan Kurdi and his stricken family.

“We discussed this at cabinet level earlier this week and there was unanimity around the table that we must do more and we will do more,” he said.


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