Most refugees enter Ireland as asylum seekers without assistance from UNHCR. If their fear of persecution is assessed as being well-founded through the refugee determination system conducted by the Irish asylum authorities, they are granted refugee status. 

Resettled refugees, on the other hand, are transferred from an asylum country to another State that has agreed to admit them and ultimately grant them permanent settlement. UNHCR is mandated by its Statute and the UN General Assembly Resolutions to undertake resettlement as one of the three durable solutions (the others being voluntary repatriation and integration into the host country). Resettlement is unique in that it is the only durable solution that involves the relocation of refugees from an asylum country to a third country.

Between 2000 and 2014 Ireland resettled over 1,200 refugees from almost 30 nationalities. The Irish Refugee Protection Programme was established in 2015 in response to the humanitarian crisis that developed in Southern Europe as a consequence of forced displacement from areas of conflict in the Middle East and Africa. 1,913 refugees arrived on resettlement under that programme between 2015 and 2019.

In December 2019, the Irish government committed to a new refugee protection programme, to expand its community sponsorship programme and to increase its annual resettlement quota by 50 each year over the next four years: 650 in 2020, 700 in 2021, 750 in 2022 and 800 in 2023.


While resettlement involves the movement of refugees from a country outside of the EU to an EU Member State, relocation refers to the movement of refugees from one EU Member State to another. It is an intra-EU process, in which Member States help another Member State to cope with the pressure of hosting a relatively large refugee population by agreeing to receive a number of them. Relocation is an expression of internal EU solidarity and burden-sharing, particularly with those countries at the borders of Europe that receive a high number of refugees. Between 2015 and 2018, Ireland welcomed 1,022 people under this programme, the vast majority of whom came from Greece. 

Community Sponsorship programme 

The community sponsorship programme gives communities the opportunity to provide sanctuary to people fleeing war and persecution. Sponsorship was first piloted in  December 2018 with the arrival of a Syrian family to Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath. It is expected that up to 50 refugees will arrive in Ireland during the pilot phase of Community Sponsorship which will last till October 2019. For more information, please click here

Humanitarian Admissions Programme (IHAP)

The IHAP programme was established to provide humanitarian admission to Ireland for 530 eligible family members of Irish citizens and those with protection status in Ireland. A second call for proposals under the IHAP issued in December 2018, with a closing date for proposals of the 8 February 2019.

In the last open call for IHAP applications, the proposed beneficiaries had to be nationals of one of the following ten countries and be residing in that country, a neighbouring country and/or be registered with UNHCR:

  1. Syrian Arab Republic
  2. Afghanistan
  3. South Sudan
  4. Somalia
  5. Sudan
  1. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  2. Central African Republic
  3. Myanmar
  4. Eritrea
  5. Burundi

Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme

In addition to Ireland’s established refugee resettlement and relocation programmes, the government introduced a once-off private sponsorship scheme in 2014 in response to the deteriorating crisis in Syria: the Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme (SHAP).

Applications for SHAP could be made during a six week period between 14 March 2014 and 30 April 2014. SHAP allowed Irish citizens of Syrian birth and Syrian nationals lawfully resident in Ireland to apply to bring family members in Syria, or displaced from Syria in surrounding countries, to Ireland. Each sponsor was able to submit applications for up to four ‘of their most vulnerable family members’, while prioritising two.

The Family Reunification Unit in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) had responsibility for receiving and processing applications made under SHAP. Ireland provided permission to reside in Ireland to 119  persons utilising the SHAP scheme out of applications made on behalf of 308 persons. The SHAP beneficiaries were initially permitted to reside in Ireland for 2 years.