Written Answers - Programme Refugees.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 662 No. 3

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  162.  Deputy John O’Mahony  Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   if he will help to allay the fears of a town (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33033/08]

  173.  Deputy Michael Ring  Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   if a group of people (details supplied) are being relocated to a town in County Mayo; if so, the discussions that have taken place with the local community in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33157/08]

[708]

  174.  Deputy Michael Ring  Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   the facilities available for a group (details supplied) that is being relocated to County Mayo; the locations where these people will be staying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33158/08]

  175.  Deputy Michael Ring  Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring   asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   if he will provide details of the group of people (details supplied) that it is proposed to relocate to County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33159/08]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Deputy Conor Lenihan): Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  I propose to take Questions Nos. 162, 173, 174 and 175 together.

I would like to thank Deputy O’ Mahony and Deputy Ring for raising these matters and for giving me the opportunity to clarify the position and to correct the statements made recently about these matters. These questions arise from an item on local radio in which it was alleged that persons currently being selected for resettlement in Ireland consisted of 100 disturbed, teenage, multiple killers and that we were freeing them from Government detention centres in order to resettle them in Ireland. It was alleged that these people were, since the ages of 8 or 9 years, programmed and trained to kill and that they would disrupt the whole system because they were disturbed and dangerous teenagers.

These are appalling and baseless allegations. The facts concerning the persons currently being selected for resettlement here by my Office with the assistance of the Garda National Immigration Bureau are as follows.

Nine families, consisting of 84 individuals, have been interviewed. The age range of the adults, numbering 29, is 18 to 68 years. The remainder, numbering 55, are children. Of these, 30 were born and raised within the refugee camps. The average time the families have been in the camps is 11 years. The families concerned are mainly persons with some type of medical need. The persons being selected for relocation are under the care of the UNHCR and the selection procedure being followed on this occasion was the same as that applied in previous instances i.e. UNHCR involvement, interview by officials and a member of the Garda National Immigration Bureau. It is grossly unfair to stigmatise a vulnerable group of people in this way and the fact that these allegations were broadcast calls into question the responsibility of all concerned.

I want to add that the person who was interviewed on radio in this connection was not present in the camps when my party was there or otherwise in the course of the selection process. As was the case with other groups of programme refugees who came to Ireland, those selected will be initially accommodated at the National Orientation and Training Centre for Programme Refugees. They will receive health screening on arrival and a cultural orientation programme on a range of topics such as household and money management, law and order, child welfare, the education system, how to access services and so on, all of which are designed to prepare them for independent living. Children attend a separate programme course to support their socialisation and to prepare them for entry into mainstream education. These programmes were developed following consultation with previously resettled refugees and service providers. On completion of the eight week orientation programme, the resettled refugees will transfer to other parts of the country for permanent resettlement. They are not being settled permanently in Co. Mayo.

My Office has good relations with the local community in Ballyhaunis where the Orientation Centre for Programme Refugees is located and I must question the bona fides of anyone who would seek to undermine this. The Orientation Centre could not function as successfully as it [709]has to date without the support of the local community in Ballyhaunis and support organisations in Mayo. I am happy to express my thanks in this regard for the support received.

The Irish people have a proud tradition of responding in a humanitarian manner to those in need of our support and assistance, and the good work of our non-governmental organisations is internationally recognised. It is an area I am familiar with from my work as Minister of State in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Over the years we have a history of accepting refugees fleeing from persecution — a policy members on all sides of this House and successive Irish Governments have endorsed and encouraged. Any change in this policy is not under consideration.


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