Statement: UNHCR Ireland welcomes support to step up efforts to relocate asylum-seekers, in particular unaccompanied and separated children
The clear expression of support by all political parties and the public in recent days to step up efforts to relocate asylum-seekers, in particular unaccompanied and separated children, is greatly welcomed, UNHCR Ireland said today. Efforts should now turn to translating these commitments and public support into tangible measures to facilitate safe passage to Ireland for some of the most vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers.
Media coverage and public debate around the protection needs of unaccompanied and separated children in Calais serve to remind us not just of the challenges faced in seeking to protect vulnerable children in countries close to our shores, but of the scale of the crisis facing unaccompanied and separated children more generally in Europe which requires a strong show of solidarity from all Member States.
“Unaccompanied children seeking asylum are entitled to special care and protection. Measures, including family tracing, must be taken to identify solutions which are in the best interests of the child,” said Enda O’Neill, UNHCR Ireland Head of Office. “Where family links are established with relatives in Ireland, these should be investigated and the appropriate legal avenues availed of to bring families together.
“Building on the good will generated by the ‘Not on our Watch’ campaign, Tusla could establish a new campaign to recruit foster carers specifically for asylum-seeking children. This would provide the basis for increased capacity to receive unaccompanied children in line with best international practice.”
Any potential offer by Ireland to contribute to efforts in France to find solutions for unaccompanied children must be coordinated appropriately taking account the efforts already underway and the changing situation on the ground. It is essential that appropriate processes are in place to determine the best solution for each individual child ensuring that their best interests are given primary consideration.
“Notwithstanding the current focus on Calais, we should not lose sight of the protection needs of unaccompanied and separated children more generally in Europe,” said O’Neill. “Relocation efforts are stepping up in Greece and we are confident that we will see increasing numbers of asylum-seekers, including separated children, being relocated to Ireland over the coming months.”
“Responses to UNHCR’s international appeal to receive more refugees through legal pathways, such as private sponsorship schemes, have been modest so far and the experience of the last few days illustrates the potential for community organisations and the public to play a significant role over the coming years in meeting Ireland’s commitment to provide sanctuary to increasing numbers of people fleeing war and persecution.”