Refugee crisis: Irish government responds to Council call for ‘more compassion’

The Mayor of Derry and Strabane Councillor Elisha McCallion speaking at a recent solidarity vigil held in Guildhall Square supporting refugees fleeing conflict.  DERR3615GS04
The Mayor of Derry and Strabane Councillor Elisha McCallion speaking at a recent solidarity vigil held in Guildhall Square supporting refugees fleeing conflict. DERR3615GS04
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The Irish government has responded to a letter from Derry & Strabane Council for greater compassion and an urgent review of places for refugees.

The local council agreed back in September to write to both the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British Prime Minister David Cameron over the humanitarian crisis.

A section of the crowd who gathered for one of the recent vigils in solidarity with refugees at Guildhall Square.

A section of the crowd who gathered for one of the recent vigils in solidarity with refugees at Guildhall Square.

The move was take in advance of a Summit of EU Leaders to discuss the international response to the hundreds of thousands fleeing from conflicts and war-torn countries and risking their lives to reach Europe.

The council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee were told this week that a response has now been received from the Office of the Minister for Justice and Equality in Dublin in response to the letter issued from John Kelpie, Derry & Strabane Council’s Chief Executive.

Chris Quattrociocchi, Private Secretary to Ireland’s Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald T.D., responded in a letter:

“Ireland has always lived up to its international humanitarian obligation and we are fully committed to playing our part in addressing the migration crisis facing Europe.

A group of refugees in a rubber dinghy arriving on the beach at Psalidi near Kos Town, Kos, Greece this summer.

A group of refugees in a rubber dinghy arriving on the beach at Psalidi near Kos Town, Kos, Greece this summer.

“We have all been shocked and upset at the scenes witnessed in southern and central Europe and the distressing scenes during rescues in the Mediterranean. It is only right that we do all we can as a nation to help.

“As part of the Government’s response to the crisis, the Minister brought proposals to Government which were considered and agreed at a special Cabinet meeting on September 10. A multi-faceted approach is being adopted including the following measures:

• Establishing the Irish Refugee Protection Programme which will provide international protection for up to 4,000 persons overall under Resettlement and Relocation Programmes. It is expected that these numbers will be augmented by further family reunifications. The first arrivals under the Programme are expected by year end. The number of persons in need of international protection will be kept under review;

• Establishing a new cross-departmental Taskforce, chaired by the Department of Justice

and Equality, to deal with the operational and logistical aspects of the support programme.

The Taskforce which has already had its first meeting, will adopt a whole of Government

approach and will work with NGOs, religious bodies, local authorities and the Red Cross to implement the Government’s response to this crisis;

• Engaging with the public on their pledges of support. The Red Cross will lead this task;

• Establishing a network of Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres for the initial reception of those arriving under the relocation programme:

• Introduce the International Protection Bill as a major priority; and

• Providing an additional package of processing resources to deal with major increases in asylum and other immigration cases.”

Mr Quattrociocchi added that in recent weeks many people have, through various media, including corresponding directly with the Department, indicated their wish to play their own part in Ireland’s response to the crisis.

“In that regard the Government has arranged, as part of its overall strategic response, for the Irish Red Cross to take the lead role in assessing, profiling and co-ordinating the many generous offers of public assistance,” he said.

UUP Councillor Derek Hussey pointed out that the Civil Action for Refugee Group was meeting this week, while Sinn Fein Councillor Brian McMahon welcomed the clarity over what was being done.

Chair of the meeting, Sinn Fein Councillor Karina Breslin, pointed out that the Mayor Elisha McCallion was organising a conference around the refugee crisis to take place at Foyle Arena later this month.