18 Irish NGOs sign open letter requesting urgent relocation of young refugees displaced by Moria fire

18 Irish NGOs sign open letter requesting urgent relocation of young refugees displaced by Moria fire

  • Pact on Asylum and Migration likely replicate abhorrent situation in Greek EU 'hotspots'

  • Avoid further, unnecessary suffering of unaccompanied children say Irish NGOs


23 September 2020

Today, as the EU publish a new Pact on Asylum and Migration, 18 NGOs from across Ireland wrote to Taoiseach Martin and Ministers Coveney, McEntee, O’Gorman and Byrne, requesting the urgent relocation of unaccompanied children and young people from Greece to Ireland following the tragic fire in Moria refugee camp - which left thousands destitute. 

While the signatories welcome the decision taken by the Irish Government in March of this year to join a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ - who committed to take a portion of the unaccompanied young people being held in Greece - they urge the Irish government to accelerate the relocation of the minors to avoid further, and unnecessary, suffering. 

To date, Ireland has taken eight of the 36 children they pledged to relocate as a Coalition member, with the Taoiseach confirming last week that the government was working to relocate an additional four unaccompanied minors following the fires in Moria. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Ireland recently campaigned on a platform of promoting human rights and being a voice for the world’s most vulnerable to secure its place on the United Nations Security Council. At a time when EU member states are being asked to show solidarity with fellow member states and young refugees, Ireland has an opportunity to lead by example in the aftermath of this preventable tragedy.

“The young refugees currently being held in Greece have already experienced the trauma of separation from, or loss of their family as well as displacement. The Irish government should act as a matter of urgency to ensure their safety now, and into the future.”

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said: "We strongly believe Ireland can do more to support young people in this desperate situation. We are calling on the Taoiseach to release extra funds as soon as possible to support Tusla and other supporting agencies so that more than four children can be assisted."

The European Commission will today outline a new Pact on Asylum and Migration. The new proposals  will likely replicate the abhorrent situation the EU has been witnessing for years in the Greek EU ‘hotspots’, where entire families have been put in actual or de-facto detention, and people seeking asylum have limited to no access to healthcare and other basic services. Women and unaccompanied minors are disproportionately affected: only a minority can access protected areas of EU-sponsored camps - leaving them to fend for themselves in flimsy tents for indefinite periods of time.

The 18 signatories are asking that more is done to ensure Ireland’s response extends beyond the four young people they are currently working to relocate. The additional 24 children Ireland has already promised to protect and care for are in an even worse state of limbo - displaced once again, as Member States debate and juggle where responsibility for their safety and wellbeing lies. 

END 

Contact 

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | 087 912 3165

Notes to the Editor 

The signatories are: Oxfam Ireland, Irish Refugee Council, Nasc - Migrant & Refugee Rights, Doras, ActionAid Ireland, JRS Ireland, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Comhlámh, Trócaire, Community Work Ireland, Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI), National Youth Council of Ireland, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Children’s Rights Alliance, European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland, Amnesty Ireland, Irish Council for Civil Liberties 

In March 2020 Irish Government joined a ‘Coalition of the Willing’, committing along with 12 other EU member states to take a portion of the 1,600 unaccompanied minors being held on the Greek islands.


Open Letter

RE:  Urgent relocation of unaccompanied minors from the Greek islands to Ireland  

Dear Taoiseach, Minister Coveney, Minister McEntee, Minister O’Gorman and Minister Byrne,  

We are writing to you today to request the urgent relocation of unaccompanied children and young people from the Greek islands to Ireland. For 400 of those children living on Lesvos, their situation was made much worse on Wednesday the 10th of September, when a fire burnt Moria refugee camp to the ground - leaving them destitute.  

Before the fire, Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos hosted nearly 13,000 people in inhumane and unhygienic conditions. The majority of the unaccompanied children living in Moria were living amidst adults in overcrowded sections of camp or sleeping rough in the camp’s overspill area.   

These children have now fled twice – once from persecution and violence in their home countries and now from the burning camp. They are alone in the world and need a safe place now more than ever.  

We welcome the decision taken by the Irish Government in March 2020 to join the ‘Coalition of the Willing’, committing along with 12 other EU member states to take a portion of the 1,600 unaccompanied minors being held on the Greek islands.   

However, to date, Ireland has only taken eight of the 36 children they pledged to relocate as part of this initiative. Last week in the Dáil, on the 15th September, the Taoiseach confirmed that following the fires in Moria, Ireland was working to relocate four unaccompanied minors – when EU member states are being asked to show solidarity and welcome a portion of the 400 children from Moria.   

Ireland’s commitment to take in just four children is significantly below what we would expect from a country like Ireland with a long history of offering refuge for the most vulnerable and its own history of emigration. Given that Ireland successfully campaigned on a platform of promoting human rights and being a voice for the world’s most vulnerable to secure a non-permanent United Nations Security Council seat for the 2021-2022 term, this tragedy provides Ireland with an opportunity to lead by example.  

We are writing today to ask you to do more and ensure Ireland’s contribution extends beyond four unaccompanied children and young people. This includes providing Tusla with the budget needed to do so. Accepting only four still leaves the additional 24 children Ireland has already promised to protect and care for in limbo – and hundreds more besides.   

In the wake of this tragedy, we would strongly urge you to work together to accelerate the relocation of the remaining 24 unaccompanied minors to Ireland and commit to welcoming more. The fire in Moria was a completely preventable tragedy and must be met with a swift response to avoid further suffering.   

Thank you for taking the time to consider this request – we are more than happy to meet with you to discuss the above in more detail if you wish.  

Yours sincerely,   

Oxfam Ireland  

Irish Refugee Council 

Nasc, Migrant & Refugee Rights 

Doras 

ActionAid Ireland  

JRS Ireland 

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland  

Immigrant Council of Ireland  

Comhlámh 

Trócaire 

Community Work Ireland 

Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI) 

National Youth Council of Ireland 

National Women’s Council of Ireland 

Children’s Rights Alliance 

European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland 

Amnesty International Ireland 

Irish Council for Civil Liberties 

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