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  • 5 min read
  • Published: 29th August 2022
  • Written by Samantha Andrades

Irish Refugee Protection programme

More resources for the Irish Refugee Protection Programme in Budget 2023 can help transforms Lives and help Ireland keep its promises to resettle Syrian and Eritrean refugees

Oxfam Ireland have asked the government to give more resources to the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (within the Department of Children Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth) in Budget 2023. Ireland has made pledges with the UNHCR to resettle 2,900 refugees between 2020 and 2023 and the Irish Refugee Protection Programme needs resources and personnel to help make this happen.

What is refugee resettlement?

The selection and transfer of refugees from one country (in this case Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia) where they have sought international protection to a third state (in this case, Ireland) which has agreed to admit them as refugees with permanent residence status. A resettled refugee has rights similar or equal to an Irish national.

How does it work?

Resettlement begins with the UNHCR (the UN refugee agency). UNHCR identifies, interviews and submits refugee cases to countries for consideration. Then, Irish agencies and departments work with UN resettlement services to process cases, do health assessments etc. An Gárda Síochána conduct security checks on each refugee to be resettled to Ireland. Officials from the Irish Refugee Protection Programme along with Gardaí travel to the host country and deliver presentations on life in Ireland. Selected refugees have already been granted refugee status having had their cases assessed by UNHCR in Lebanon/ Jordan / Ethiopia.

Why is Oxfam Ireland asking the Irish government to increase resources for refugee resettlement in Budget 2023?

As an organisation working globally on humanitarian and crisis situations, Oxfam Ireland has highlighted the importance of Ireland upholding its commitment to receive and protect refugees and displaced people from all countries and regions seeking protection without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or nationality. Ireland should ensure that it meets its pledges to resettle Syrian and Eritrean refugees. These resettlement pledges are a vital lifeline to people left languishing in impossible conditions in camps and must be met.

Refugee resettlement to Ireland has been very successful and changed the lives of people who had been stuck in traumatising situations. The Irish Refugee Council called it “a shining example of the moral leadership Ireland can show in transforming the lives of those in desperate need of international protection”. The report ‘Voice Of Syrians-Resettled Refugees in Ireland' published by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth concluded that “Syrian refugees have much to offer to Ireland, are committed to the future of their families in Ireland and look forward to the supports which can increase their independence and capacity to contribute to wider society.” While there is room for improvement (for example in provision of English language supports) this is a programme that works well and transforms lives.

What about housing and Ukrainian refugees?

The lack of housing (especially suitable and affordable housing) is a problem for many people in Ireland including vulnerable groups and refugees. The government needs to implement a cross-departmental plan to address this, in conjunction and consultation with civil society organisations with relevant expertise and lived experience.

Tragically, conflict and persecution are not going away and the government needs to plan for long term accommodation needs instead of reacting in crisis mode. Increasing the resources of the IRPP is a step towards this.

Ireland is a rich country. It’s important to remember that over 80% of the refugees in the world are hosted by low and middle income countries. In Lebanon (from where Ireland have pledged to resettle Syrian refugees), 9 out of 10 Syrian refugees live in extreme poverty and half of the refugee population is food insecure. In Ethiopia, eruptions of conflict and insecurity have disrupted Eritrean refugees’ access to food, water and medicine.

Oxfam Ireland welcomed the Irish government’s support to people fleeing Ukraine and its commitment to finding solutions to ensure Ireland meets its international protection responsibilities, accommodation challenges notwithstanding. We cannot break promises made to African and Middle Eastern refugees because we are accommodating European refugees. The Irish public recognise the Equal Right to Refuge as the Irish Times’ poll last week found that a clear majority of Irish people, 66 per cent, disagree with the government’s policy of treating refugees from Ukraine differently to any other refugees.

What pledges has the Irish government made?

In December 2019, the Irish government committed to a new phase of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), to increase annual resettlement quota by 50 each year over 4 years: 650 in 2020, 700 in 2021, 750 in 2022 and 800 in 2023. Ireland has pledged with the UNHCR to resettle 2,900 refugees between 2020 and 2023. The arrivals for the first two years to largely comprise Syrian refugees resident in Jordan and Lebanon, along with a pilot group of 150 Eritrean refugees resident in Ethiopia.

In 2020 and 2021, the number of resettlement departures to Ireland dipped to 195 and 92 respectively, due to the covid-19 associated challenges. The IRPP have been making trips to Lebanon and working to meet pledges but will need appropriate resources and personnel to do so.

budget stat

Oxfam Ireland Budget ask:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) projects that more than 2 million refugees will be in need of resettlement in 2023. This is a 36% increase from 2022, due in part to the humanitarian impacts of the ongoing covid pandemic and the new mass displacement situations of the past year. Safe return home is not a viable option for many refugees as conflicts continue. Resettlement is a vital protection tool. Of the estimated 1.4 million refugees in need of resettlement in 2021 – including children and adolescents, survivors of torture and violence, and older people – 57,500 were given homes in new countries. Only 4 % of the total requiring resettlement. Ireland can play a role in resettling refugees.

The resources allocated to the IRPP within the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth must reflect this increase as well as the increase in resettlement need globally and the pledges that Ireland has made.

Increase resources and personnel to the IRPP to ensure that Ireland meet its resettlement pledges.

For more details of how Budget 2023 can contribute to addressing inequality, ending poverty and creating a more sustainable world please see our pre-budget submission.