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Foreign Affairs | Draw attention to vulnerability of refugees

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he can directly, through the European Union and or the United Nations, influence colleagues throughout Europe and the developed world and draw their attention to the vulnerability of refugees, particularly women and children, who are very often at the mercy of traffickers, warlords and others; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Ireland continues to play its part and encourage others to provide a safe haven for people in need of protection and humanitarian support, who are fleeing conflict and crises. Since the onset of the war in Ukraine, for example, Minister Coveney has engaged closely and regularly with his counterparts across the European Union, calling for a collective effort in terms of supporting the extraordinary number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing war and violence.

Ireland is a staunch advocate for the rights of refugees at the EU, including in the context of refugee and migratory movements into and between EU Member States. We fully support EU efforts to deal with the migration issue in a comprehensive and holistic manner, including through resettlement and increased legal pathways for migration; addressing root causes of migration and reforming the Common European Asylum System.

The EU and its Member States recognise and are bound to the principle of non-refoulement, as enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and both Ireland and the EU regularly make that position clear and remind other States of their obligations. Ireland has repeatedly highlighted the need for greater solidarity and burden-sharing among EU Member States in dealing with the issue of migration. It is vital that we find more sustainable solutions involving consensus among Member States based on solidarity and responsibility.

Ireland’s role on the UN Security Council also provides an important opportunity to advance our foreign policy priorities, including the promotion and protection of human rights.  During our time on the Council, we have consistently worked to uphold international human rights law and International Humanitarian Law, including by advocating for the rights and protection of refugees.

In times of displacement, women and children are especially vulnerable. Approximately 90% of those who have fled Ukraine to date are women and children. Two of Ireland’s key humanitarian partners responding to the crisis, UNHCR and UNICEF, recently issued a joint call for action urging the protection of children fleeing the conflict. These and other Irish Aid partners are at the forefront of efforts to provide assistance and to improve the lives of women and children who have been forced to flee their homes, in line with Ireland’s stated policy of reaching the furthest behind first.

Ireland has made consistent progress on our pledges made at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019 including fulfilling our pledges to support UNHCR, our commitment to address the root causes of displacement through support of €4.5m for global peacebuilding initiatives, and increasing support for education in emergencies and protracted crises. In 2021 Minister Coveney pledged to increase Ireland’s funding to the UN Peacebuilding Fund to €10 million over the period 2020-2024.

Government has also taken action domestically to ensure the safety of refugees who arrive in Ireland. Work is ongoing on the implementation of the Second National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking in Ireland (published in October 2016), which identified 65 actions to combat trafficking and assist victims. Many of the actions have been delivered, others are ongoing, and new policy instruments are continually reviewed and introduced. In July 2020, a human trafficking stakeholders’ forum was established with NGOs and statutory agencies to facilitate structured dialogue on how Ireland’s response to human trafficking can be further enhanced.

The Department of Justice has taken proactive steps to raise awareness of and mitigate any potential risk of trafficking in the context of people arriving into Ireland having fled the war in Ukraine, working with the International Office for Migration (IOM).


Foreign Affairs

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