03 April 2017 - News broke yesterday about the discovery of 13 adults and a child who were found in a refrigerated trailer unit aboard the Irish Ferries Oscar Wilde ship. This is the third discovery of this nature in the last two years in Ireland and comes at a time when recorded deaths in the Mediterranean sea continue to rise as people pay smugglers in a bid to reach safety.

Caroline Reid, Communications Officer for the Irish Refugee Council said,

“Until we see more proactive responses and solutions which open up safe and legal ways for people to escape persecution we will continue to see people making journeys of this nature. No person should find themselves in a situation where they feel that their only choice is to pay smugglers to transport them on dangerous and arduous journeys with no guarantees for their safety.”


“According to the United Nations, 905 people have been recorded as dead or missing in the Mediterranean this year alone. That is the equivalent of ten lives lost each day since January 1st. It is very likely that countless other, unrecorded, lives have been lost as Europe focuses on stemming flows rather than considering further safe and legal pathways.”


“All European countries, including Ireland, should be looking at ways to facilitate the safe movement of people. Humanitarian visa and admission programmes, an increase in the numbers committed to under the EU relocation and resettlement schemes, and other legal channels of migration such as student visas and work permits, would ensure that men, women and children are not putting their lives at risk to reach Europe, a place they perceive to be safe and free from violence, a place where their rights should be protected.”

- ENDS - 

Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, 0858585510


On World Refugee Day 2016 the Irish Refugee Council published Safe and Legal Pathways to Protection which outlined models of access for persons seeking protection that could be considered by the Irish government. These included:

Humanitarian Visas

Humanitarian visas are a form of ‘protected-entry procedure’ which would enable asylum seekers to legally travel to Ireland to claim international protection. Lessons can be learned from other countries’ experience with such visas. For example, Brazil has issued 8,450 humanitarian visas for Syrians since the start of the Syrian conflict and between 2013 and 2015 France issued 2,622 asylum visas for Syrians, and has pledged to issue an additional 1,500 humanitarian visas in 2016.

Humanitarian Admission Programme

These programmes consist of States admitting vulnerable and other at-risk populations to access temporary protection on humanitarian grounds. Ireland has experience of this through its Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme (SHAP) whereby Syrians resident in Ireland sponsored relatives in Syria and the region to be admitted here. A total of 111 Syrians were admitted into Ireland under the Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme. A further Humanitarian Admission Programme could be explored with flexible eligibility criteria in line with its humanitarian purpose. This should be extended beyond Syria to include people fleeing persecution and/or conflict from other countries.

Increase the number of people under the Resettlement and Relocation Programmes

To date an insufficient number of people have been resettled and relocated in Ireland under the Resettlement and Relocation Programmes. In light of the current scale of the refugee crisis the Irish Refugee Council recommends that the amount of 4,000 refugees under two years is reviewed and a further commitment is made for more refugees to access protection in this way. All administrative and related obstacles should be reduced and/or removed to increase the efficiency of such programmes and ensure faster processing capacity of cases.

Private Sponsorship programmes

Private sponsorship essentially involves individuals or community groups assuming responsibility for providing financial, social and emotional and other settlement support to a resettled refugee or refugee family for a predetermined period of time.  Ireland can gain knowledge from other States’ considerable expertise in this area. For example, Germany has issued private sponsorship places for 22,063 Syrians, Italy has admitted 100 people and Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugee Programme has offered protection to more than 275,000 refugees since its establishment in 1979. The generous response of the Irish public so far shows that this is an option that requires special consideration.

Proactive use of the family criteria under the Dublin Regulation

Certain criteria under the Dublin Regulation enable family reunion for asylum seekers, in particular unaccompanied children. However, these criteria are often under-utilised in practice and emphasis is often placed on assigning Member State responsibility on the basis of irregular entry which places a disproportionate burden on States such as Greece and Italy. A more proactive use of family criteria under the Dublin Regulation should be employed along with efficient family tracing services to refugees to use this instrument to reunite with family members. Similarly, the Irish government should more frequently apply the discretionary clauses in the Dublin Regulation to enable asylum seekers to have their claim examined in Ireland for humanitarian reasons.

A more fair and efficient family reunification procedure

Many families have been separated due to the refugee crisis and family reunification can play an important role in accessing protection. Preservation of the family unit also facilitates integration in the host country. In practice, the family reunification procedure can be lengthy with onerous documentation requirements which can leave family members for protracted periods of time in precarious situations in the country of origin or nearby region. The processing times for family reunification applications should be accelerated and a flexible approach should be taken to dependency criteria and other evidentiary requirements. Furthermore, the International Protection Act 2015 introduces a number of restrictive requirements and omissions such as time limits on requesting family reunification and prohibiting family reunification for extended dependent family members. The Irish Refugee Council recommends that these restrictive legislative provisions are amended and replaced with a more generous family reunification framework.

Other legal channels of migration

The use of other legal channels of migration should be further explored such as labour mobility schemes and education sponsorship programmes. For example Portugal has granted 70 academic sponsorships and France has granted 1,000 academic sponsorships for Syrian nationals.