DUBLIN, Ireland - The Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan, and the Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton met Thursday with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
The meeting was organised as part of Grandi's two-day visit to Ireland, which also includes meetings with the President, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The ministers and the High Commissioner discussed the global plight of refugees and Ireland's ongoing response to this humanitarian crisis.
"There are now more than 70 million people globally who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and who are in need of protection. After speaking with High Commissioner Grandi this morning I am more convinced than ever of the continuing need for our Irish Refugee Protection Programme and for countries, like Ireland, to put in place additional pathways for refugee admission to ensure we are reaching and supporting those who are most vulnerable," Flanagan said after the meeting.
"In addition to our national resettlement programme, which has operated since 2000, Ireland has recently launched two innovative refugee admission programmes under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme – the Community Sponsorship Ireland (CSI) initiative and the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme (IHAP)."
Minister Stanton added: "Our Community Sponsorship initiative is a complementary resettlement stream to the traditional state-centred model. Developed and implemented with support from UNHCR Ireland and the NGO sector, it encourages groups within a community to come together as a Community Sponsorship Group with the aim of supporting arriving refugees. These community groups assist families in accessing services and provide the supports and friendship necessary to enable these families fleeing their homes to find a safe and welcoming refuge in their community. To date, under the pilot phase of the initiative, four communities are hosting a refugee family and a number of other communities located throughout the country are at various stages of the application process to become a Community Sponsorship Group. The initiative is a prime example of how refugee supports and integration measures can be implemented hand-in-hand to achieve the best outcomes for the refugees themselves and for their new communities."
Minister Flanagan is using his discretionary powers in the immigration area to provide new admission pathways for family members of refugees and Irish citizens from refugee producing countries under the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme (IHAP). "Under the IHAP, I am prioritising vulnerable family members from the top ten refugee-producing countries as identified by UNHCR and providing them with an opportunity to join their families who are already living in Ireland," he said. "We are providing places for up to 530 family members. Since the programme was launched last summer, 166 family members have been granted permissions, of whom 99 have already arrived in the State. I expect this number to increase now that we are examining the second round of proposals received. UNHCR is actively involved in the delivery of the programme and has provided valuable expertise to my officials at each stage of the process."
The ministers and the High Commissioner also discussed the role which UNHCR plays in the international protection process in Ireland. The processes in the International Protection Office and the International Protection Appeals Tribunal have been designed with input from the UNHCR and both offices are independent in the performance of their international protection functions.
The ministers also took the opportunity to highlight the work underway in the Department to continue to improve the reception system for international protection applicants including through the introduction of agreed Standards for accommodation centres. These Standards have been developed with the support of UNHCR Ireland as part of a Standards Advisory Group convened by Minister Stanton and will be launched shortly.
At the meeting, the ministers confirmed their commitment to ensuring that emergency accommodation for applicants in hotels and guesthouses is used for as short a time as possible until new accommodation centres to come on stream from the ongoing regional procurement process. The use of such accommodation incurs additional costs to Ireland with expenditure this year likely to reach or even exceed €120 million.
Ministers noted that Ireland has agreed to assume the Chair of UNHCR Syria Core Group on Resettlement, a multilateral engagement by some 30 governments who seek to find protections in third countries for Syrian refugees. They welcomed ongoing discussions with the Swedish government about joint working groups on refugee protection.
Finally, the ministers and High Commissioner Grandi extended best wishes to the team from the Department who will be travelling to Jordan next week as part of a selection mission for approximately 300 more refugees to be admitted under the IRPP.