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Four hundred and forty asylum-seekers are due to arrive in Ireland in the coming weeks following their assessment and clearance for travel in Greece.
The arrival of the men, women and children will bring to 899 the total number of people who have arrived in Ireland from Greece as part of the relocation strand of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP).
To date, 276 adults and 183 children, including 70 children under the age of four, have arrived in Ireland under the relocation through the programme.
An additional 785 people have also arrived in Ireland under the State’s resettlement programme of refugees and migrants from Lebanon.
This brings to 1,244 the total number of people who have arrived in Ireland since 2015 under the State’s refugee protection programme, less than half the original pledge made by the Government to bring 4,000 asylum seekers to the country.
In a statement, the Department of Justice said the State remained “on target to fulfil its commitments insofar as it has been within our power to do so”, adding that the original commitment of 4,000 included the relocation of 623 people from Italy, which has not been possible to date.
Unlike Greece, Italy has not allowed other countries to carry out security assessments of people eligible for relocation, making it impossible for Ireland to take in asylum seekers from Italy, the statement said.
“Intensive efforts remain ongoing to try to resolve this impasse,” it added.
The department said 1,089 people are expected to have arrived in Ireland from Greece by the end of the year, including 101 people who were assessed in Athens in July and are awaiting security clearance before travelling to Ireland.
Meanwhile, the department said it remains “on track” to meet its commitment of resettling 1,040 people from camps in Lebanon and expects 255 more people to have arrived by the end of the year. Of those who have arrived from Lebanon, 359 are adults, 136 are aged four and under, 230 are aged between five and 12, and 60 are aged 13 to 17.
It added that the original 4,000 target included 910 people who remain “unallocated” by the European Commission and therefore will not be relocated to Ireland by the end of the year.
‘Lack of political will’
Chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council Nick Henderson accused the Government of “a lack of political will to meet this target”, saying a lack accommodation options in Ireland was slowing down the progress of bringing asylum seekers to Ireland.
“It seems there is a problem in actually providing reception facilities to people. Approximately 300 people have been identified as in need from relocation from Greece and they are ready to come here but they cannot come here because we don’t have the facilities,” Mr Henderson told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
Brian Killoran, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, called on the Government to widen family reunification routes and introduce humanitarian visas as a means of providing those most at risk with safe and legal passage to Ireland.
“It is time to look at alternative means and methods. The Irish public has demonstrated its openness in welcoming new people and we should be looking at models like community sponsorship to bring over people with connections in Ireland, in addition to the State pledge.”
Research published last week by aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières warned that the health and well-being of the most vulnerable refugees stuck on the Greek islands was at risk due to “a grossly deficient screening system” and EU policies aimed at returning as many people as possible to Turkey.
Dr Declan Barry, who works with MSF in Greece, warned that the most vulnerable people were falling through the cracks and called for greater resources for those awaiting resettlement on the Greek islands.
“People arriving on the islands spent days in the open and in very basic tents, with no medical care and waiting for days to be screened, despite some having severe medical conditions. The system for screening and identifying vulnerable people has broken down.”