Up to 530 family members of refugees already living in Ireland are to be reunited under new government plans.
Minister Charlie Flanagan briefed his Cabinet colleagues earlier today on the new reunification scheme, which applies to refugees from conflict zones such as Syria.
The minister also announced an increase in the number of new refugees to be resettled in Ireland over the next two years.
Last week, despite government opposition, a Private Member’s Bill to allow refugees to bring their extended family to Ireland passed to committee stage.
It’s understood Flanagan opposed the Bill as work was already underway to allow him to use his discretionary powers to reunite immediate family members not covered under the law.
Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, the Justice Minister Flanagan said he carefully considered the views on TDs and senators following the detailed discussions on family reunification in the Seanad.
“Family reunification is an important part of the process of integration for refugees in Ireland. I will operate this humanitarian admission programme under my Ministerial discretionary powers and it will be in addition to the family reunification provisions provided for in the International Protection Act 2015,” he said, adding:
“We have increased our resettlement commitment for 2018 to 600 refugees and we have made a new pledge to resettle an additional 600 refugees in 2019. These are the largest pledges that the State has made for resettlement in a calendar year since our national resettlement programme began in 2000.”
“It signifies our ongoing commitment to supporting the most vulnerable refugees by providing a safe haven and a welcoming environment to rebuild their lives here in Ireland. I am proud of the compassionate and welcome response of the Irish people to those fleeing harrowing conflicts, particularly in Syria.”
The details as to when the family members and additional refugees will be arriving will be announced in the coming weeks.
To minimise the impact on an already strained housing supply, priority may be given to families who can meet the accommodation requirements of eligible family members.
The promise to take in the highest number of refugees to date is part of European Commission/UNHCR resettlement programme, which aims to provide 50,000 resettlement places across the European Union over the two-year period.
As part of the programme, the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) has agreed to accept up to 4,000 asylum seekers and refugees.
By early 2018, Ireland will have admitted its entire designated cohort from Greece, approximately 1,089 people, and it will have admitted double the original commitment of 520 refugees under the European Commission’s July 2015 resettlement scheme, taking in 1,040 people.