18 Irish NGOs sign open letter requesting urgent relocation of young refugees displaced by Moria fire

  • Date: 23/09/2020
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

Members of the Irish public pictured on Sandymount beach in 2015.

Today, as the EU publish a new Pact on Asylum and Migration, 18 NGOs from across Ireland, including ActionAid, wrote to Taoiseach Martin and Ministers Coveney, McEntee, O’Gorman and Byrne, requesting the urgent relocation of unaccompanied children and young people from Greece to Ireland following the tragic fire in Moria refugee camp – which left thousands destitute. 

While the signatories welcome the decision taken by the Irish Government in March of this year to join a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ – who committed to take a portion of the unaccompanied young people being held in Greece – they urge the Irish government to accelerate the relocation of the minors to avoid further, and unnecessary, suffering. 

To date, Ireland has taken eight of the 36 children they pledged to relocate as a Coalition member, with the Taoiseach confirming last week that the government was working to relocate an additional four unaccompanied minors following the fires in Moria. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Ireland recently campaigned on a platform of promoting human rights and being a voice for the world’s most vulnerable to secure its place on the United Nations Security Council. At a time when EU member states are being asked to show solidarity with fellow member states and young refugees, Ireland has an opportunity to lead by example in the aftermath of this preventable tragedy.

“The young refugees currently being held in Greece have already experienced the trauma of separation from, or loss of their family as well as displacement. The Irish government should act as a matter of urgency to ensure their safety now, and into the future.”

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said: “We strongly believe Ireland can do more to support young people in this desperate situation. We are calling on the Taoiseach to release extra funds as soon as possible to support Tusla and other supporting agencies so that more than four children can be assisted.”

The European Commission will today outline a new Pact on Asylum and Migration. The new proposals  will likely replicate the abhorrent situation the EU has been witnessing for years in the Greek EU ‘hotspots’, where entire families have been put in actual or de-facto detention, and people seeking asylum have limited to no access to healthcare and other basic services. Women and unaccompanied minors are disproportionately affected: only a minority can access protected areas of EU-sponsored camps – leaving them to fend for themselves in flimsy tents for indefinite periods of time.

The 18 signatories are asking that more is done to ensure Ireland’s response extends beyond the four young people they are currently working to relocate. The additional 24 children Ireland has already promised to protect and care for are in an even worse state of limbo – displaced once again, as Member States debate and juggle where responsibility for their safety and wellbeing lies. 

The signatories are: Oxfam Ireland, Irish Refugee Council, Nasc – Migrant & Refugee Rights, Doras, ActionAid Ireland, JRS Ireland, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Comhlámh, Trócaire, Community Work Ireland, Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI), National Youth Council of Ireland, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Children’s Rights Alliance, European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland, Amnesty Ireland, Irish Council for Civil Liberties 

In March 2020 Irish Government joined a ‘Coalition of the Willing’, committing along with 12 other EU member states to take a portion of the 1,600 unaccompanied minors being held on the Greek islands.

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