Wednesday, 27 May 2020
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
35. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Irish citizens that are still abroad and seeking support for repatriation following the outbreak of Covid-19; the number of persons that were in financial difficulties that have received supports; and the supports received in funding from Europe for same. [8249/20]
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides all possible consular advice and assistance to citizens overseas, where requested and where appropriate.
As part of our comprehensive approach in the context of COVID-19, our focus has been on helping citizens who are normally resident in Ireland to return home safely on commercial flights where available or on chartered repatriation flights, if possible.
To date, my Department, including our Embassies and Consulates on the ground, have advised or assisted over 6,000 citizens to return safely to Ireland. We are in ongoing contact with approximately 1,000 citizens who remain overseas and are seeking assistance to return home.
A very small number of these citizens have received emergency financial assistance, to help with the costs of the flight or to cover basic requirements until the departure of the flight. The assistance was agreed in these few cases due to particularly exceptional and difficult circumstances, and on the basis of an undertaking to repay within six months.
Throughout the COVID crisis, we have worked in close consultation with EU partners bilaterally, and via the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the EU Directorate General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) mechanisms such as the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM). 627 Irish citizens have returned from 126 different locations on special repatriation flights organised by our partners, making use of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism under which up to 75% of the costs can be recouped. We chartered three special repatriation flights ourselves, from Peru, India and Nigeria, also making use of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism. A final figure is not yet available from the European Union on the total cost of this effort to bring our citizens home.
The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) is provided for in section 28 of the recently enacted Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (The Act).
The underlying legislation and the TWSS itself were developed having regard to the Government objective of providing assistance to employers and employees, where businesses have been seriously affected by the Covid 19 pandemic and the restrictions which were introduced as a result. The scheme is available to eligible employers across all sectors, excluding the Public Service and Non-Commercial Semi-State Sector. This includes businesses that have closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions and those that continue to operate and employ their workforce. The sector to which the Deputy refers is no different in this regard.