Travel Assistance Programme



The Travel Assistance Programme, operated by UNHCR, the Irish Red Cross, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has been in operation since 2006. It is the only programme of its kind in Ireland. The programme assists refugees or those granted subsidiary protection in overcoming the financial and administrative obstacles to family reunification. In addition to travel costs, refugees may need assistance with attaining the required visas and travel documents to ensure the safe arrival of family members. They may also need support in organising logistics from frequently inaccessible parts of the world.   

To be eligible an applicant must be a refugee or have been granted subsidiary protection, be on low income or social welfare and have been granted family reunification permission for the family members they are applying for. A large proportion of the family members who are assisted in travelling to Ireland are living in situations of prolonged displacement abroad or are living in very difficult conditions within or close to conflict zones.

Protection and family reunification application processing times, combined with travel document and visas processes, can lead to very lengthy periods of separation for family members. In 2016, the average length of separation for families availing of the travel assistance programme was six years and eight months.


In 2016, the average length of separation for families availing of the travel assistance programme was six years and eight months.


The programme enables families to be reunited faster and in many cases, travel more safely. The Irish Red Cross takes the lead role in administering the programme, meeting applicants, gathering information and if necessary, tracing families. In turn, UNHCR assesses eligibility and IOM organises travel and logistics.

Since its inception, the programme has supported 430+ individuals (120 Families). In 2017 the Programme assisted 126 people to be reunited with 36 families. These included 13 Syrian families (39 individuals) travelling from Syria, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Turkey. Other nationalities included Congolese (DR Congo), Ethiopian, Somali, Afghan, South Sudanese, Stateless (Kuwait), Sudanese, Zimbabwean, Ugandan, Yemeni, Eritrean and Zambian, travelling from countries such as DR Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somaliland, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, Sudan, Lebanon, Uganda, Yemen, and Zambia.

The programme is co-funded by UNHCR and Irish Red Cross. However, sustainable long-term funding is urgently needed to ensure more families are able to access effectively one of their most basic rights: the right to be with their family. As demand for the programme continues to grow annually, the funding currently available for 2018 is projected to fall significantly short of demand.

If you would like further information, please email UNHCR Ireland on [email protected]