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Foreign Affairs | Ensuring fair and adequate treatment for refugees

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the way that he can ensure that refugees receive universally fair and adequate treatment throughout the developed world in particular to the need to ensure safe receptions/havens for such people in transit with adequate support to prevent any abuses; if he will take steps for same with the European Union and the United Nations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Providing assistance to refugees and safeguarding their rights remains a key part of Ireland’s foreign policy. Ireland supports refugees both through direct action and through our engagement with multilateral fora such as the EU and the UN.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees worldwide and safeguard their rights and well-being, and is a key funding partner of Irish Aid. UNHCR also assists former refugees who have returned to their homeland, internally displaced people, and people who are stateless or whose nationality is disputed. In December 2021, Ireland pledged contributions of €18 million to UNHCR for 2022. Ireland’s total contributions for 2022 are set to exceed this pledge by €5 million, as a result of our support to UNHCR’s response to the Ukraine Crisis and its impact across the region.

Ireland is also a permanent member of UNHCR’s Executive Committee (governing board) and the Department of Foreign Affairs engages on an ongoing basis with UNHCR throughout the year. UNHCR also have a major donors group for those who provide over $20m per year and thus receive additional briefings in Geneva – Ireland has been a member of this group since 2020. 

Ireland continues to play its part and to encourage others to provide a safe haven for people fleeing conflict and crises and who are in need of protection and humanitarian support. Since the onset of the war in Ukraine Minister Coveney has engaged closely and regularly with his counterparts across the European Union, calling for a collective effort in terms of supporting the millions 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 migration and displacement in a comprehensive and holistic manner, including through refugee resettlement; increased legal pathways for migration; addressing root causes of irregular 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.

Ireland’s role on the UN Security Council also provides an important opportunity 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.

I was delighted to be able to participate in a High Level Meeting in December which took stock of progress made in achieving the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees, including through the pledges and contributions made and initiatives announced at the first Global Refugee Forum in 2019. In addition to fulfilling our pledges to support UNHCR I highlighted Ireland’s progress in other areas including our commitment to address the root causes of displacement through support of €4.5m for global peacebuilding initiatives. In 2021 Minister Coveney pledged to increase Ireland’s funding to the UN Peacebuilding Fund to €10 million over the period 2020-2024. Furthermore, Ireland has fulfilled and exceeded its pledge to increase support for education in emergencies and protracted crises. 

Ireland has also pledged to welcome 2,900 refugees during the period from 2020-2023 under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. This new phase of the programme will build on the important work undertaken since 2015, and is a vital part of upholding our responsibilities in helping those fleeing the most harrowing of circumstances such as war and persecution.


Foreign Affairs

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