Ireland to resettle more refugees, says Minister

The UN refugee agency has welcomed an announcement by Irish Minister of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, Michael McDowell, that the country will increase its annual refugee resettlement quota from approximately 40 to 200 people per year.


DUBLIN, Ireland, June 9 (UNHCR) - Ireland is significantly increasing its annual refugee resettlement quota from 10 cases (approximately 40 individuals) to 200 individuals per year, the Irish Minister of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, Michael McDowell, announced on Wednesday.

"Resettlement is an important part of our overall policy for refugees, many of whom are living in very difficult conditions in refugee camps abroad, and cannot return in safety to their countries of origin," Minister McDowell said in a press statement. "In announcing this increased resettlement programme today in the run up to World Refugee Day on June 20, I am happy to be able to put in place arrangements which will allow the State to better target those most vulnerable and in need of protection and to make more effective use of resources in the protection area."

Ireland is one of only 17 countries worldwide with a resettlement programme. UNHCR has commended Ireland's increased quota as "a model for other European countries" to share the global responsibility to protect vulnerable refugees.

"Refugees who flee their countries may not find safety in the first country they reach, and resettlement is often the only solution to their plight," said UNHCR's Representative in Ireland, Pia Prütz Phiri. "Ireland's increased quota is a fine example of its commitment to refugee protection."

She added, "I thank the Minister and Ireland for taking the lead in demonstrating a firm commitment to refugees and offering concrete solutions to their problems. I hope more countries will follow Ireland's courageous lead."

UNHCR makes special requests to governments to accept groups or quotas of refugees for resettlement, as part of its overall effort to find lasting and durable solutions to their plight.

In 2005 alone, UNHCR estimates that approximately 36,000 refugees, out of the worldwide refugee population of 9.7 million, are in immediate need of resettlement through programmes offered by countries such as Ireland.

Ireland has a long history of providing protection to refugees through resettlement programmes. It resettled 530 Hungarian refugees in 1956; 120 Chilean refugees in 1973; 803 Vietnamese refugees (1979-2000); 26 Iranian refugees (1985); 1,341 Bosnian refugees (1992-2000); and 225 refugees from various nationalities under the annual Irish resettlement quota over the past five years (not including people joining resettled refugees under family reunification). In addition, 1,063 Kosovar refugees were admitted to Ireland in 1999-2000 under a Humanitarian Evacuation Programme.

Ireland's agreement to participate in a resettlement programme does not alter existing obligations under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees to provide protection to refugees who spontaneously arrive on its territory.

By Steven O'Brien
UNHCR Ireland