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Ireland to resettle more refugees, says Minister

News Stories, 9 June 2005

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




UNHCR country pages


An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Between February and October 2011, more than 1 million people crossed into Tunisia to escape conflict in Libya. Most were migrant workers who made their way home or were repatriated, but the arrivals included refugees and asylum-seekers who could not return home or live freely in Tunisia.

UNHCR has been trying to find solutions for these people, most of whom ended up in the Choucha Transit Camp near Tunisia's border with Libya. Resettlement remains the most viable solution for those registered as refugees at Choucha before a cut-off date of December 1, 2011.

As of late April, 14 countries had accepted 2,349 refugees for resettlement, 1,331 of whom have since left Tunisia. The rest are expected to leave Choucha later this year. Most have gone to Australia, Norway and the United States. But there are a more than 2,600 refugees and almost 140 asylum-seekers still in the camp. UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to find solutions for them.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

Through the Clouds to Germany: One Syrian Family's Journey

On Wednesday, Germany launched a humanitarian programme to provide temporary shelter and safety to up to 5,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. A first group of 107 flew to Hanover in the northern city of Hanover. They will attend cultural orientation courses to prepare them for life over the next two years in Germany, where they will be able to work, study and access basic services. Among the group are Ahmad and his family, including a son who is deaf and needs constant care that was not available in Lebanon. The family fled from Syria in late 2012 after life became too dangerous and too costly in the city of Aleppo, where Ahmad sold car spare parts. Photographer Elena Dorfman followed the family in Beirut as they prepared to depart for the airport and their journey to Germany.

Through the Clouds to Germany: One Syrian Family's Journey

Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlementPlay video

Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlement

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehousePlay video

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehouse

An Iraqi man who turned down resettlement to the U.S. in 2006 tells how it feels now to be a "refugee" in his own country, in limbo, hoping to restart life in another Iraqi city.
Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New LifePlay video

Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New Life

After their family fled Syria, young brothers Mohamed and Youssef still were not safe. Unable to access medical treatment for serious heart and kidney conditions, they and the rest of their family were accepted for emergency resettlement to Norway.