Syrian children outside a makeshift tent near the refugee and migrant camp at the Greek island of Samos on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 | Photo: Picture-alliance
Syrian children outside a makeshift tent near the refugee and migrant camp at the Greek island of Samos on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 | Photo: Picture-alliance

Ireland is being urged to take in 36 refugee children from Greece as soon as possible. The call follows criticism of the government for failing to meet its refugee resettlement target.

The head of Ireland’s Children’s Rights Alliance says the country has a moral duty to relocate the children who are at risk of “losing their childhoods”. Tanya Ward says 500 unaccompanied minors are currently living without shelter or access to education in Greece.

“It’s a deteriorating situation. Ireland needs to move quickly to get those refugee children out,” Ward says.

Last December, Ireland’s justice minister, Charlie Flanagan, promised to bring 36 unaccompanied minors to the country by the end of this year. However, Ward says the government is not meeting its commitment.

The Irish government pledged in 2015 to accept up to 4,000 people under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). Around 2,600 migrants have been brought to Ireland through the IRPP, including 41 children and young people as part of the Calais Special Project.

Improve the lives of refugee children

Ward made the comments following the release of the Safe Haven Report which looks at the problems refugee children from Syria have experienced since moving to Ireland.

The report recommends ways in which Ireland should work to improve refugee children’s lives. Language barriers in education, mental health services and accommodation for asylum seeker children are key concerns raised in the report.

During the launch of the report, the head of the IRPP, Eibhlin Byrne, said most migrant parents had “written off their own lives” so that they could create a better future for their children, the Irish Times reports. She added that these children could go on to become leaders of business or politics if they received the right support and guidance.

Government under pressure over resettlement

The government has also faced criticism over its refugee resettlement commitment. Joan Burton, a member of Parliament of the Labour Party, accused it of failing to meet its target of accepting 4,000 migrants, including 200 unaccompanied minors, the report in the Irish Times said.

At the same time, a coalition of Irish organizations has called on the government to increase its target to at least 1,500 resettlement places annually in the period 2020-22. The coalition of 23 groups also urged Ireland to lead in a new Mediterranean search-and-rescue mission and the development of a mechanism for sharing responsibility.

 

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