Thursday, 6 October 2005
Department of Foreign Affairs
US Refugees Policy
Question 18: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs, further to a parliamentary question of 2 June 2005, the response he has had to any efforts made in relation to the 242 families who were accorded temporary residence in the United States following the eruption of the volcano in Montserrat; the present circumstance of these persons following the summer of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26852/05]
I refer the House to the replies I made to previous questions on this matter on 8 March 2005, 28 April 2005 and 2 June 2005, respectively. In my reply of 8 March 2005, I said that Senator Edward Kennedy, joined by Senators John Kerry and Charles Schumer, had written to President Bush to urge a reversal of the decision by the US Department of Homeland Security to terminate the "temporary protected status" granted to 292 refugees from Montserrat allowing them to reside in the US. This status was granted following the major volcanic eruption in 1997 which destroyed much of the island of Montserrat, and its revocation came into effect on 27 February 2005. Senator Schumer had also sponsored a Senate bill to provide relief for the Montserrat group, and a similar measure has been introduced in the House of Representatives.
The last action in respect of the Bill in the Senate was a referral to the Committee on the Judiciary on 7 February 2005, while the last action in the House of Representatives was a referral to the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims on 2 March 2005.
I understand that no concerted action has been taken to deport the Montserratians and, in the meantime, efforts to secure a deferral of any enforced departures amongst the Montserrat group continue to be made by its friends in the US Congress. Any decision on this matter is a matter for the US authorities but, as I have previously said, we very much appreciate the humanitarian impulse underlying the initiative taken in this case by Senator Kennedy and his colleagues.