PRESS RELEASE, 20 June 2017
On World Refugee Day, the Irish Refugee and Migration Coalition urges leaders to do more to protect people forced to flee
Every year thousands of people die crossing the Mediterranean and it has now become the most dangerous crossing in the world. Over 5,000 people died in 2016 and this year alone over 1,800 people lost their lives on the crossing. On World Refugee Day, the Irish Refugee and Migration Coalition, which is comprised of 23 Irish organisations, is calling on the Irish Government to welcome and protect people seeking safety. The Coalition asks that they ensure families can be reunited without having to undertake dangerous journeys and by doing so the Government can proactively help end the on-going needless loss of life.
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said ‘it should not take days like World Refugee Day to draw the world’s attention to the horrors facing people forced to flee. Tragically the numbers of refugees and migrants perishing in the Mediterranean in search of safety remain shamefully high as we watch the same scenes play out on our TV screens again and again.’
‘It is vital that that our leaders live up to their responsibility and do more to protect people fleeing unimaginable situations of conflict, persecution, poverty and disaster. The Irish Government must save lives by bringing many more people to safety in Ireland, as the alternative leaves innocent people either languishing in misery in refugee camps or forced into the hands of smugglers to face unimaginable abuse. Too often, in the desperate search for safety, families are torn apart and there is no guarantee they will be reunited again. This only adds to the trauma of being forced to leave everything behind and it’s vital that the Irish Government adopt more flexible family reunification practices to ensure families can stay together when fleeing conflict.’
Diane Kylecaleb, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who arrived in Ireland as an unaccompanied child described how being reunited with her family changed her life: ‘For me, being reunited with my siblings meant that I could finally call Ireland my home. I can finally plan my life knowing that I have a home, which as a refugee, is the first home I have ever really known. It means the ambiguity of ‘do I belong here or not?’ is finally gone. It means my children can actually have a family too and if anything was to happen to me, I know I have people around to care for them. Family reunification, for me, meant I could actually sleep at night as the guilt of me being safe while not knowing if my family have eaten, are alive, dead or dying was removed and therefore I could actually see and plan my tomorrow.’
Nick Henderson, the Irish Refugee Council’s CEO, remarked that ‘with the change in family reunification rules introduced by the International Protection Act 2015, hundreds of families will continue to be separated and in some cases, loved ones will remain in volatile and hostile areas as they have no other way out. It doesn’t need to be this way, Diane’s experience illustrates what a positive impact flexible family reunification rules have made in her family’s life.’
Henderson concluded: ‘Ireland has committed to bring over 4,000 people by the end of the year under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, but less than one third have actually arrived. Given the number of people around the world who have had to forcibly leave their homes, Ireland needs to honour its commitments, show solidarity, and extend a welcome to people in need of protection.’
CONTACT: For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
- Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, Irish Refugee Council: +353858585510
- Alice Dawson, Communications Coordinator, Oxfam Ireland: +353831981869
Spokespeople are available for interview, including Diane Kylecaleb, Nick Henderson and Jim Clarken
- EMBARGOED until 20 June 2017
- The Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition is comprised of 23 organisations working in the area of asylum and migration.
- The Coalition calls on the Irish government to ensure that its commitments under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme are met, and to use the various safe and legal channels to ensure that those in need of protection can reach safety.
- The International Protection Act 2015 substantially narrows the family definition and removes the possibility for refugees to apply for dependent family members. The former Act (Refugee Act 1996) was substantially broader.
- This call correlates with a series of events around the country this week which seeks to draw attention to the need for solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees. These include;