UNHCR Welcomes Irish announcement of family reunification scheme for refugees

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency has welcomed the announcement by Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, to make 530 places available for family members of refugees. 

The new humanitarian admissions programme is expected to allow family members and dependents, including those not covered under the existing provisions of the International Protection Act 2015, to rejoin their family in Ireland.

“Family reunification grants refugees one of the most basic rights, the right of being with their loved ones” said UNHCR’s Head of Office, Enda O’Neill. “It can be extremely beneficial, not only to the family concerned, but to wider society and to the State, enhancing integration prospects and the well-being of refugees.”

UNHCR has offered government officials its support and assistance in designing the programme, more details of which are due to be announced in the coming weeks. “In order to ensure an efficient and fair process, it is important to be realistic about the administrative burden that may be asked of refugees who often face difficulties in accessing documentation from war zones”, added O’Neill.

With an estimated 1.2 million refugees in need of resettlement, UNHCR also welcomed the Minister’s decision to increase resettlement numbers to 600 in 2018. This commitment will allow more people to exit dangerous and protracted situations of displacement.

“In the absence of legal ways to find safety, thousands of refugees continue to rely on trafficking networks, risking serious abuse and their very own lives. UNHCR welcomes Ireland’s continued commitment to resettlement and other legal pathways providing increased opportunities to some of the most vulnerable people and their families to come to Ireland to find safety and rebuild their lives.”

With global forced displacement at a record 65.6 million, UNHCR estimates that the number of people in need of resettlement globally in 2018 is 1.2 million. However, the number resettled last year was 125,600, far short of the needs. In September 2016, 193 members of the United Nations, including Ireland, committed in the New York Declaration to resettle or find alternative legal pathways for greater numbers of refugees and to support those countries receiving and hosting large numbers.