Urgent need for refugee relocation, says Irish Refugee Council
Posted On: August 23, 2016
23 August 2016, Media Release
Irish Refugee Council Legal Officer reports back on fact finding mission in Greece
The Irish Refugee Council is calling on the Irish government to honour its commitment of relocating asylum seekers from Greece and Italy as quickly as possible. To date no people have been relocated from Italy and only 38 people have been relocated from Greece. This is in stark contrast to the number of asylum seekers relocated from Greece to Member States such as France, the Netherlands and Portugal.
Maria Hennessy, Legal Officer at the Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre, has just returned from a fact finding mission in Greece where she witnessed first-hand the situation facing refugees in Athens and on the Islands of Lesvos and Chios.
“The situation in some camps for refugees is alarming, with people, including families with young children, living in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions where access to basic needs such as healthcare and nutritious food is extremely limited,” said Ms Hennessy.
She went on say, “The Greek authorities have established an administrative process for relocation in cooperation with EU agencies EASO and IOM and Ireland needs to respond in a proactive way. The EU relocation programme was established as an emergency response to an urgent humanitarian crisis and should be utilised as such.”
Maria continued, “These people have fled war and persecution. We are aware that the relocation procedure will become more operational in the coming months but the urgency of the situation in Greece cannot be emphasised enough. We must act in solidarity with Greece by increasing the scale of the Irish response and effectively relocating asylum seekers to Ireland in a swift manner.”
In establishing the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, Minister Frances Fitzgerald highlighted the special plight of unaccompanied children. However, to date only one unaccompanied child has been relocated to Ireland. The Irish Refugee Council urges the government to prioritise the relocation of the most vulnerable refugees, including unaccompanied children.
“The situation is entirely unsuitable for unaccompanied children. If no spaces are available in care homes these children are detained and for many existing trauma is exacerbated by the environment they are living in. The capacity of the Greek authorities is overstretched and people are growing increasingly frustrated as they remain stranded in Greece,” Maria concluded.
The Irish Refugee Council is committed to supporting the Irish Refugee Protection Programme to ensure people are safely relocated to Ireland.
Maria is available for interview
Previous statement: Irish Refugee Council Legal Officer to visit Athens, Lesbos and Chios
During her trip, Maria Hennessy met agencies, organisations and volunteer groups working on the ground. Maria also delivered training to lawyers in Athens in relation to the application of the Dublin II Regulation. In tandem with this trip, the Irish Refugee Council also launched a humanitarian drive called People to People: Ireland in Solidarity with Greece Appeal to deliver additional funds to assist local volunteer efforts and organisations who are distributing essential front line services and material needs to the people currently waiting in Athens and on the islands. Thanks to the generosity of the Irish public we were able to address some of the immediate needs of refugees on the Island of Chios in particular by supporting the Zaporeak-Sabores Solidario kitchen delivering meals to refugees, the Chios Eastern Shore Response Team providing food and clothing to refugees upon arrival on the island and the Chios refugee school. The appeal remains open for donations.
On 10 September 2015 the Irish Refugee Protection Programme was established as a direct response to the humanitarian crisis facing refugees. It was agreed that the Irish government would take in 4,000 refugees under the EU relocation programme and resettlement. The Irish Refugee Council welcomed the fact that the Irish government went over its allocated Commission quota of asylum seekers for relocation from Greece and Italy but is concerned that the relocation process is now taking too long and too few people have been relocated to Ireland to date.
There are currently 58,500 refugees stranded in Greece. As of 1 July 2016 1,994 people have left Greece to other EU countries under the relocation scheme. The top three countries of relocation are France, the Netherlands and Portugal. France has relocated 1099 people whilst the Netherlands and Portugal have relocated 393 and 307 people respectively.
There are estimated to be approximately 2,278 unaccompanied children in Greece. 29 unaccompanied children have been relocated from Greece to other Member States. 25 of these children have been relocated to Finland whilst only one has been relocated to Ireland.
For further information on the EU relocation scheme see European Solidarity “European Solidarity: A Refugee Relocation System” 2015.