Thursday, 19 January 2023
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Micheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The first point I make is that we have international obligations under international law. What has distinguished Ireland on the global stage is the fact that we are a rules-based country that believes in the international rule of law and that we adhere to that. One aspect of that is the Geneva Convention and European laws in respect of the treatment of those who seek asylum. Therefore, there is a legal obligation on us in respect of people fleeing war, starvation, or political oppression to hear their cases through the asylum process. When someone arrives into the country, in many cases without documentation or with no documentation on them when they present, they seek asylum. Then the legislative process this House has provided, or legislated for, kicks in and that application is then assessed. The number of people seeking asylum this year has dramatically increased over previous years. I think there are close to 14,000 to 15,000 people who have sought asylum. That is separate from those from Ukraine who are fleeing war. Approximately 75,000 people fleeing war have come into the country from Ukraine and we can all see the devastation in Ukraine that has caused this massive migration of millions and millions of people from Ukraine, namely, the bombing of civilian infrastructure and the terrible murders of the innocents.
In terms of the asylum seeking process, we are legally obliged under international law to give people a fair hearing when seeking asylum. That is creating a lot of pressure on accommodation. The combination of the war in Ukraine, allied to climate change and conflict in other parts of the world, is causing enormous pressures on our asylum process which is unprecedented in terms of scale. If you take 15,000 seeking asylum under the asylum legislation combined with 75,000 Ukrainians, one can see already the pressures on our accommodation system are going to be immense. Our public servants have worked extremely hard to try and absorb and accommodate the very significant increase in migration that has occurred. It is not easy and it is now challenging but there are no easy solutions either and I am not going to pretend that there are. Unfortunately, we are in a wartime situation in Europe and the worst war since the Second World War on the Continent and it is having very negative repercussions across the board. We have conflict elsewhere as well in the neighbourhood of Europe, all of which is creating this movement and migration. Every single other country in Europe is also experiencing this.