Oxfam Ireland Homepage
  • 4 min read
  • Published: 1st April 2022
  • Press Release by Christine Bale

Oxfam warns of preferential EU refugee response and calls on Irish Government to ensure equal treatment for all

Today, Oxfam Ireland warned that a preferential refugee response is developing across the EU, where some are met with solidarity and others with hostility. The aid agency is calling on the Irish Government to ensure that all refugees arriving in the EU and Ireland receive equal treatment in accordance with European and international law.  

The call comes after EU Home Affairs and Justice Ministers, including Minister for Justice  Helen McEntee met on Monday and issued a 10-Point Plan on stronger European coordination on welcoming people fleeing the war against Ukraine.

Oxfam welcomed the progressive steps included in the plan and are calling on the EU to extend its provisions to everyone seeking refuge in the EU.  

They are calling on the Irish Government to ensure an equal right to refuge for all by:  

  1. Providing sanctuary and protection for all those fleeing Ukraine without discrimination, and 

  2. Preventing a preferential EU refugee response where some are met with solidarity and others with hostility.  

Oxfam is advocating that additional steps need to be taken to ensure all those fleeing the violence in Ukraine can obtain refuge in the EU without discrimination. This follows reports that non-Ukrainian nationals, particularly those from Africa and the Middle East, are being pushed back at the border in what the UN has described as “racialised denial of entry”. Meanwhile, other vulnerable groups, like people with a disability, need extra supports to ensure they can avail of the protection they are entitled to. Oxfam recommends ensuring there are human rights monitors at Ukraine-EU borders so that all possible measures are taken to make sure all individuals can cross and seek refuge safely. They are also urging the Government to arrange direct travel routes to EU member states (including Ireland) free of cost so that people can flee quickly and safely, limiting the risk from trafficking, exploitation and abuse. 

Beyond Ukraine, Oxfam warns that refugees across Europe continue to suffer as a result of inhumane and illegal policies and practice. They are advocating for an end of pushbacks, which are illegal, on all EU borders and a permanent relocation mechanism for all refugees in the EU as well as an improvement of conditions in camps and reception centres, among other asks.  

The aid agency has launched an online petition calling on people across Ireland to sign it and demonstrate the public’s desire for the Government to take these actions.   

Commenting today, Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “We are heartened to see the unprecedented open arms response to those fleeing Ukraine in Ireland and across Europe as a result of the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the country. Such a response shows the best of us and should serve as a blueprint for how we welcome and protect all people fleeing similar situations no matter where they come from. 

“Unfortunately, this is simply not the case at the moment. We have worked with refugees in Europe since 2015, people fleeing conflict, persecution and war, arriving with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their children in their arms. For many, they were not met with solidarity – instead they suffered trauma on top of trauma, including violent pushbacks at EU borders, being denied their right to seek asylum for no good reason and left to languish in inadequate conditions in camps. The stark reality is thousands of people seeking refuge from conflicts around the world continue to die trying to cross into the EU. In 2021, nearly 3,500 people died attempting to enter the EU through land and sea borders. 

“There is a serious danger that we are developing a preferential refugee response across Europe, a two-tier system that differentiates based on which conflict you are fleeing or where you are coming from. This is not who we are – as Irish or European citizens – and it  must end. 

“We are calling on all in Government to use all channels in the EU to end this unfair and harmful stance and support equal treatment of all who are forced to claim their rights to protection under international law. And we’re asking people in Ireland to join us in this call by signing our petition.”  

Oxfam’s Equal Right to Refuge petition can be found here.  

Oxfam’s full policy brief - Equal Right to Refuge – can be found here.  


CONTACT: Alice Dawson Lyons, Oxfam Ireland | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to Editors:

Full asks to the Irish Government under the Equal Right to Refuge campaign:

Oxfam Ireland calls on the Irish Government to ensure:

  1. Equal access to seek international protection for all fleeing Ukraine.
    1. No discrimination at the borders.
    2. Inclusive of persons with disabilities.
    3. EU institutions and member states coordinate and facilitate safe and orderly transfers to EU member states.
  2. The EU and Member States uphold their commitment to receive and protect refugees and displaced people from all countries and regions seeking protection in the EU without discrimination, including those arriving in other Member States and border areas, fleeing from other crises across the world.
    1. Stop practices and policies that are illegal under international law
      - Pushbacks
      - Denying the right to claim asylum
    2. Improve conditions in camps at hotspots so that they meet basic reception standards and avoid the use of de facto detention.
    3. Promote mandatory responsibility-sharing through a permanent relocation mechanism.
    4. Re-start Search and Rescue at EU’s borders and stop criminalising NGOs and others who help people stranded.
    5. Maintain resettlement pledges.