Wednesday, 1 March 2017
Department of Justice and Equality
Refugee Resettlement Programme
81. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the details of the integration programme for refugees arriving here from Greece and-or Italy under the Irish refugee protection programme and the work that is ongoing in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10526/17]
As the Deputy knows, the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) was established by Government Decision on 10 September 2015 as a direct response to the humanitarian crisis that developed in Southern Europe as a consequence of mass migration from areas of conflict in the Middle East and Africa. Under this programme, the Government has pledged to accept a total of 4,000 persons into the State by the end of 2017; 2,622 through the EU relocation mechanism established by two EU Council Decisions in 2015 to assist Italy and Greece, and 1,040 (519 by the end of 2016 and the remainder in 2017) under the UNHCR-led refugee resettlement programme currently focussed on resettling refugees from Lebanon.
The Deputy's questions covers two separate cohorts arriving under the Irish Refugee Protection Porgramme (IRPP):
- Firstly, those arriving as UNHCR programme refugees from Lebanon who are catered for by the Office for the Promotion for Migrant Integration (OPMI) and
- Secondly, those arriving from Greece and Italy as relocated asylum seekers.
In relation to the first cohort arriving under the IRPP, programme refugees, I refer to my comprehensive reply to the Deputy's recent Parliamentary Question No. 96 of 21 February 2017 which sets out in considerable detail the nature of the integration programmes available to this group. In relation to the second cohort arriving under the IRPP, relocated asylum seekers, which I take to be the core focus of this Parliamentary Question, I wish to inform the Deputy that the integration programmes available to this cohort will be broadly the same as those for programme refugees but there will be some differences arising from the different nature and initial entitlements of the two cohorts.
As the Deputy is aware from my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 96 of 21 February 2017, work in relation to the arrival of UNHCR programme refugees begins about 9 months in advance of resettlement. With the relocation cohort this period of advance planning is not available because of the circumstances of the relocation group and the process set out in the relocation instruments. Instead the IRPP has about 3 months to plan for the arrival of relocated asylum seekers. When this cohort arrive they do not, as asylum seekers, possess the same rights and entitlements as refugees. Nonetheless, the IRPP endeavours to the greatest extent possible to treat them in a broadly equivalent manner so as to commence the integration process in the quickest possible timescale. The IRPP does this as the likelihood of persons in this cohort achieving a grant of international protection is very high because (a) the selection process embedded in the relocation instruments is predicated on the fact that eligible nationalities must, across the EU, have a 75% or higher chance of obtaining status and (b) the overwhelming majority of persons being relocated to Ireland are fleeing the war in Syria .
In advance of their arrival in Ireland, relocated asylum seekers will have been interviewed while in Greece or Italy by an IRPP team to both assess their needs and vulnerabilities prior to arrival in Ireland and to initially orient them to Irish life and society. Following their arrival in Ireland, and during their initial period of reception, relocated asylum seekers will be accommodated in an Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre (EROC). As the name suggests, an EROC is largely about reception and orientation for those who are to be subsequently resettled. In the EROC they will receive broadly the same integration services as available to programme refugees with due account being taken of the fact that certain things may not be able to happen until individuals receive a decision on their application for a grant of international protection. This decision is usually forthcoming within twelve weeks. IRPP staff meet individuals and families at regular intervals to help assess their ongoing needs and requirements. The client group also receive an orientation and language training programme while in the EROC. A Friends of the Centre group will be established in Ballaghaderreen, the newest EROC to be opened and, working through with the Irish Red Cross, the IRPP intends to explore with volunteers what additional community supports can be of benefit from an integration perspective to the cohort.
In terms of resettlement in the community, the overall model to be used will be identical to the model used for programme refugees as will be the suite of integration supports. Details of this model are set out in the response to the Deputy's previous Parliamentary Question referred to above.
In relation to integration, the Deputy may also be aware that the Migrant Integration Strategy, which was published on 7 February 2017, offers a blueprint for the Government's action to promote migrant integration for the period to 2020. It sees integration as a two-way process which involves action by migrants and non-migrants alike. It promotes action by Government, business, employers, migrants, NGOs and local communities. The Strategy requires all Departments to insert integration as a theme in strategy statements, business plans and staff training. It is using networks as a means of encouraging greater participation by migrants in all aspects of Irish life.
It includes targeted initiatives to promote migrant entrepreneurship, to encourage migrants into the Civil Service and onto State boards and to improve English language provision in education and training. It is accompanied by a Communities Integration Fund, launched by Minister David Stanton T.D., on 7 February, which will provide funding for community initiatives to promote integration.
The IRPP integration model for relocated asylum seekers will work with existing best practice in this areas as pioneered by the OPMI but is also willing to work organically with community bodies, NGOs and civil society to see what else can be added to the integration model in order to help refugees successfully integrate into Irish society and rebuild their lives.