UNHCR welcomes Irish government response to refugee crisis

The UNHCR also commended the “incredible” work of the Irish Navy over many months in rescuing those attempting to cross the Mediterranean

NEWSThe United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) has welcomed the efforts of the Irish government to tackle the European refugee crisis, despite, they argue, there being no political obligation to do so.

Speaking to Trinity News, Jody Clarke, an associate at the UNHCR’s Dublin office, stated that because Ireland is not part of the Schengen Agreement and other EU justice and home affairs legislation, “it did not have to [agree to relocate a number of refugees] but did.”

After a Cabinet meeting this morning, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced the government’s decision to opt-in to the EU’s plan to relocate 120,000 refugees. Under that plan, Ireland will take an additional 2,900 persons, with Germany taking 31,443 and France 24,031. These numbers are calculated using factors such as GDP, population size and employment rate. At this point, the total number of refugees Ireland has agreed to resettle is approximately 4,000.

The UNHCR also commended the “incredible” work of the Irish Navy over many months in rescuing those attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

Critics of these measures point to the still relatively small numbers the Irish state has presently agreed to resettle, particularly compared to countries such as Germany. In this respect, the UNHCR praised Angela Merkel’s leadership in tackling the crisis, while claiming “there is a need for other EU countries and Ireland to do the same.”

However, despite calling on the Irish government to show greater leadership, Clarke indicated that Ireland was not under the same pressure to take decisive action as a country on the continent such as Germany. He said this was not only because of Ireland’s position in relation to EU treaties, but also due to its geographical proximity: “Ireland does not have refugees on its doorstep as Germany has. Therefore, the government does not have to take immediate measures with refugees like Germany has to.”

Meanwhile, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union has begun collecting items from students such as shoes, tents, jackets and toiletries as part of a larger donation drive for refugees taking place this Saturday.

Additional reporting by Jedidja Stael

A full interview Jody Clarke regarding Ireland’s role in the current crisis will appear in the upcoming print edition