Tag Archives: refugees

Above from left: Minister of State with Responsibility for Law Reform James Browne TD; Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys TD; and Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman

This afternoon

Dublin Castle, Dublin 2.

The Government has agreed to provide up to 500 additional places for Afghan family members.More than 670 Afghan nationals have already been granted permission to reside in the State this year.

Via RTÉ:

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said the new reunification scheme announced today will apply to family members who are vulnerable in Afghanistan or who have fled to a neighbouring country.

She said the Government is very conscious of the plight faced by people in Afghanistan following the takeover of the Taliban.

Ms Humphreys said that more admissions under existing schemes are also expected in the weeks and months ahead.

The Government said it will be up to the Afghan people in Ireland to apply to get their relatives here.


Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman said that almost 400 humanitarian visas have been issued following the takeover of the Taliban, with 150 of those visa holders already in Ireland.

He said these visas are being given to frontline human rights’ defenders, people who work in supporting women’s non-governmental organisations, journalists, members of the LGBTI+ community, and those who are particularly vulnerable to the Taliban takeover.

Mr O’Gorman said these people have full refugee status on their arrival in Ireland.

The minister said those arriving from Afghanistan will not go into direct provision.

Govt to provide up to 500 extra places for Afghan family members (RTÉ)


Gavan Reilly tweetz:

Meanwhile: the European Parliament has rejected a resolution asking member states to step up search-and-rescue for refugees in the Mediterranean.

Fine Gael’s four MEPs voted against; it lost by two.

Watch the vote result emerge – to applause – here

MEPs reject migrant rescue resolution (EU Observer)

Previously: ‘Our Naval Service Is Part Of It’

Into Harm’s Way


Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan has tweeted:

Sad, sad day for me. An MEP vote around supporting the rescue of drowning migrants in the Mediterranean has been defeated.

How did the Irish MEPs vote?

Myself + Ciarán Cuffe voted for the motion…along Anderson, Carthy, Flanagan and Wallace.


I do not think FG was motivated by racism, heartlessness or anything like it.

Their group argued that rescue efforts act as a ‘pull factor’.

We in @GreensEFA do not agree, but we need to work together on a better outcome for those affected. Hateful language has no place in this.

They came over here.

A video featuring people who have made Ireland their home to showcase a new exhibition at the Little Museum of Ireland reflecting on ‘the relationship between victims of the Great Famine and people from all over the world who seek shelter in Ireland today’.

Leave to Remain:Refugees in Ireland 1847-2017 (until April 29) includes photographs by Serbian artist Vukasin Nedeljkovic, recording his experience of direct provision for three years.

Leave To Remain (The Little Museum of Ireland)

This morning.

In the Dáil.

Several TDs, including Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Independents 4 Change TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, raised the Irish Navy’s current involvement in the European Union’s Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean where asylum seekers attempting to leave Libya are being brought back to Libya.

Irish freelance journalist Sally Hayden, who last week won the Foreign Coverage award at the Irish Journalism awards for her Irish Times reports on migration matters, has been reporting extensively in recent months on asylum seekers who have been intercepted by the Libyan coastguard and brought back to Libya where they’ve been detained.

Last month, Ms Hayden reported:

“Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have been returned to Libya since February 2017, when the country’s UN-backed government entered into a deal with Italy to prevent migration to Europe. Italian politicians have called the deal a success, because it has reduced the number of people arriving on their shores.

“However, for the men, women and children returned to Libya, the situation is bleak. More than a dozen detainees across Tripoli contacted by phone have described detention centres rife with abuse, where they’re fed once a day at most, forced to work, and sometimes beaten or raped. Overcrowding has led to the spread of infectious diseases like tuberculosis.

Further to this.

The Junior Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe told the Dáil this morning that Operation Sophia has  helped to “improve overall maritime security”.

He said the latest UN figures show that, as of November 14, 2018, the number of migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea was 103,347 – compared to 156,708 in 2017, and 343,258 in 2016.

He said Ireland’s involvement in Operation Sophia in 2019 is currently being considered and a decision will be made on that following a full review of its 2018 deployments.

He also said: “We have interrupted the smugglers in the model that they are using. We’ve destroyed their boats and they use to smuggle migrants through.”

And he explained: “When we joined Operation Sophia, Operation Pontus [its predecessor] was a humanitarian search and rescue mission undertaken by Ireland’s bilateral agreement with the Italian authorities and the sole focus of that mission was the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean. Now we’ve joined Operation Sophia, it specifically seeks to counter traffic and smuggling in the south Mediterranean, central Mediterranean sea, by taking action against criminal networks.”

Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly put it to Mr Kehoe that Operation Sophia is not about saving or rescuing people from the Mediterranean but, instead it’s “part of your current drip, drip participation into involvement in a PESCO and a future European army”.

Mr Kehoe said: “Deputy, absolutely, of course, I agree with you 100%. Of course, it’s a military mission. But also it’s a UN-mandated mission.”

He added:

“When we joined PESCO, and brought it to the Cabinet, brought it to the House here, it was voted democratically by the members of this House, to join Operation Sophia and it totally changed the mission that we were participating in under Operation Pontus.

“Operation Sophia specifically seeks to counter human trafficking and smuggling in the south, central Mediterranean, by taking action against the criminal networks and disrupting smugglers’ business model by improving maritime security.

“Operation Sophia is actively  contributing to the EU and international efforts to, of the return of  stability in Libya. In addition, Operation Sophia plays an important role in the training of the Libyan coastguard. We weren’t doing any of that under Operation Pontus.”

Mr Ó Snodaigh put it to Mr Kehoe that it was his understanding that the Irish Navy isn’t in Libyan ports.

Therefore, he asked Mr Kehoe to confirm if the Irish Navy has been “destroying” smugglers’ boats at sea.

He also asked Mr Kehoe to confirm how many boats the Irish Navy has escorted back to Libya.

Mr Kehoe said he would come back to Mr Ó Snodaigh with a figure.

Meanwhile, Mr Wallace said:

“Operation Sophia is pulling people back to a place of violence and human rights violations. Only yesterday, authorities used rubber bullets and tear gas to force over 90 refugees to disembark a cargo ship docked at Misrata.

“The stand-off lasted 10 days. The refugees, including children, said they’d rather die than return to indefinite detention in Libya. This is the reality of Libya and Operation Sophia.

Now scores of refugees are killing themselves in detention centres where the Irish Navy are helping the Libyan coastguard to keep these desperate people. You said Minister, that you’re saving lives by interrupting smugglers, you’re sending them back to violence.

“They’d rather be killed then go back. You talk about a UN mandate, let’s not forget. The UN gave the mandate to destroy this place in the first place. That’s what they did. There’s no sense in what’s going on there, Minister.”

“We should have nothing to do with this military mission. We’re actually crucifying people by sending them back to Libya which this government, your government, actually, agrees with the NATO mission there. And sadly back by UN mandate.”

Mr Kehoe responded:

“Our mission statement totally changed when we joined Operation Sophia but I wasn’t hiding behind anything.”

Related: Libya is a war zone. Why is the EU still sending refugees back there? (Sally Hayden, The Guardian)


Paul Kehoe speaking in the Dáil in January 2018.


National Gallery of Ireland tweetz:

This auction catalogue for the sale of art for the ‘benefit of prisoners of war of Irish regiments and Belgian refugees’ is held in our Irish Art Archives. The auction was held by Bennett & Son auctioneers, 6 Upper Ormond Quay, in 1915.

Further to this…

Alison Begas tweetz:

My Grandmother arrived in Ireland in Oct 1914, one of about 2,500 Belgian refugees to come here. Her home city, #Mechelen, had been largely destroyed by the Germans. She was welcomed compassionately here, and this [above] is resonating with me.


This morning.

On Today with Sean O’Rourke.

Fine Gael senator Maura Hopkins (pictured above) was interviewed in light of reports that 80 Syrian refugees will be accommodated in a former hotel in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon.

From the interview:

Maura Hopkins: “I became aware of the plan to open an emergency reception and orientation centre at the Abbeyfield Hotel in Ballaghaderreen yesterday evening and, similar to other Oireachtas representatives within the constituency. I was advised that there will be potentially 80 people from Syria, coming through Greece, having been assessed by Irish Department of Justice officials coming to Ballaghaderreen from mid to late-January.”

“And, obviously, you know, I am concerned that there hasn’t been proper consultation, that there hasn’t been proper engagement within the community in Ballaghaderreen. You would understand that, you know, Ballaghaderreen is a very close-knit community and this is our first level of awareness of this happening and these people are, who have gone through very, very difficult times, are potentially coming to Ballaghaderreen in about 10 to 15 days. So, you know, you can appreciate that, you know, actually this morning alone I’ve got numerous, numerous calls and messages from locals who are concerned that there are not proper plans in place to deal with the imminent arrival of these people. And, I mean, I’m fully supportive of the fact that, and Roscommon is aswell, in terms of playing our part and making sure that, you know, we do our fair share in terms of supporting these refugees who have been through the most awful of circumstances.”

“However, I am very concerned with regard to practical plans..”

Sean O’Rourke: “Well, now, just first of all..”

Hopkins: “And also with regards to capacity of a small, local town…”


Hopkins: “It’s more than just moving into a hotel. You know, it’s very important that there is proper and, you know, adequate engagement and consultation with the local community. As I said there, we’re ver close-knit and already this morning, I’ve had numerous, numerous calls from locals who are very concerned that there is not proper plans in place.”

“I would also mention, during my discussions yesterday evening, with the, that, you know, 80 people potentially will be coming in mid to late January but my understanding is the department have assessed this site – which has 40 bedrooms and 29 incomplete apartments as having capacity to deal with a maximum of 250 people. Now Ballaghaderreen has a population of almost 2,000 so we’re talking about 1 in 8 people so this is a major and significant potential change for our town and I certainly think, as a Ballaghaderreen person and, also, as a representative, that it’s very important that there is proper engagement and consultation and that the practicalities and plans are properly worked out.”


O’Rourke: “I think what people are hearing, from what you’re saying Senator Hopkins is more that isn’t so much an opportunity as a threat to your community. Now is that an unfair way of me to characterise it?”

Hopkins: “I certainly think it is..”

O’Rourke: “So could it be a great opportunity to help in the revival of Ballaghaderreen?”

Hopkins: “Potentially, but we need to ensure we have increased resources in order to meet these demands and in order to ensure that these people are provided with a highly supportive, safe environment that, how’d you say, that has proper resources and has a proper plan and the practicalities are worked out.”

O’Rourke: “Yeah, I just, I know my colleagues this morning were speaking and you were the person that was willing to go on record, I think there were people speaking to councillors. I mean are there concerns, for instance, about terrorism?”

Hopkins: “Not that I’m aware of. I mean the concerns that I received this morning were in relation to the resources.”

O’Rourke: “Ok.”

Hopkins: “And in relation to the capacity of Ballaghaderreen as a town to be able to cope with potentially, you know, a large number, a significant change within the town and ensuring that we have proper resources in place to deal with that.”

Pic: Fine Gael





Lebanon, refugee camp in Lebanon; Diaa; Shahad, Hassan and Diaa; and Bekaa Valley

According to the UNHCR, there are more than one million Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon, a country which is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

In response to a request from the Lebanese government, as of May 6, 2015, the UNHCR stopped registering Syrian refugees – therefore, the actual number of Syrian refugees is unknown but it’s believed there are around 1.5million refugees in Lebanon.

Those unregistered are subsisting in an even more precarious position than those registered.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon are not allowed to work, and there are no formal settlements for them in which to live.

According to the UNHCR, as of September 30, 2016, there are 360,733 registered Syrian refugees living in Bekaa Valley.

Further to this…

Hugh Golden, aged 27, from Dublin – who has an MA in International Security and Conflict Studies from Dublin City University – explains:

I’m a waiter while I wait for that career to magic itself into existence. The Irish Government made a commitment, in September 2015, to re-settle 4000 refugees in Ireland. As of September 2016; 310 have been taken in. I’m hoping that Irish people read the stories of those left in limbo and ask the obvious questions: Why have so few been re-settled in Ireland? Why not the people in this article? Wouldn’t Hassan’s children flourish here? There’s certainly no life for them in Lebanon.

Hugh writes:

On Saturday June 4th 2016, I arrived in Beirut. I planned to travel to the Syrian border two days later, to interview refugees stranded in camps; those white tent sprawls we all recognise after decades of monotonous televised misery from hot foreign countries.

They’ve become as familiar to us as the Coronation Street music or gregarious weather forecasters. I had the naïve thought that, for those first two days, I could experience one of the world’s most exciting cities without having to face the reality of the world’s largest mass movement of people since World War II.

I would eat, drink and be merry, and on Monday I would take the bus to the mountains.

But you can’t hide 1.5 million refugees in a country half the size of Munster.

Syrians crowded every underpass, every street corner, every intersection; destitute, exhausted, and begging. The children mobbed cars at traffic lights; tiny hands reaching in windows for change, their hair streaked blond and auburn after spending so many hours in the brutal sun on exposed round-a-bouts and motorway hard shoulders.

These children moved in packs; and some were as feral as the word suggests. Most were too young to know of anything but war and poverty. The bar staff of Beirut spend as much time in the early hours kicking out Syrian children as they do serving Aperol Spritz to well-heeled Lebanese hipsters.

On the Monday, I took a bus to Zahle; a beautiful town overlooking the Beqaa Valley where the Syrian refugees of Lebanon are mostly concentrated.

My visit to the camps near Zahle was facilitated by ABAAD – Resource Centre for Gender Equality, a Lebanese NGO which provides safe spaces for women and girls experiencing domestic violence.

ABAAD also do outreach work with Syrian refugees, whose female members are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and humiliation. Approximately 20% of Syrian refugee families in Lebanon are headed by females; countless husbands have been lost to the war.

Amnesty International cites the Lebanese state’s unwillingness to renew residency statuses as a major contributing factor to such vulnerability. Women are forced to accept exploitative working conditions, and are afraid to report abuse to the authorities for fear of deportation. First the war, and now this.

The first camp we visit has 374 people living in it, and has been in existence since shortly after the war began in 2011. The white canvas tents are clumped into blocks with dusty avenues between. The smell of sewage is pungent in the midday heat.

Overlooking the camp are the majestic mountains which form the walls of the Beqaa Valley. For the residents of nearby Zahle; a wealthy, predominantly Christian town, this is a truly beautiful place to live.

Local bar patrons wax lyrical about the hiking trails in one breath, and warn a European about the true intentions of Muslims in another. We are greeted by the camp manager; a man who acts as an intermediary between the refugees and the land-owner.

This camp, as is typical in Lebanon, sits on private land; the refugees pay monthly rent which is collected by the manager. The manager is usually a Syrian refugee himself with the good fortune, or wiles, to obtain a position of influence within the camp.

For those who fall short on rent, the camp manager may lend the difference; some of the children I saw playing among the tents will almost certainly inherit a grubby debt not of their own making.

The power of the camp manager cannot be understated; the dramatically varying standard of dwellings within the camp suggests a hierarchy of sorts. Despite the ubiquity of the UNHCR logo on the camp tents, the manager reported that no camp resident has been re-settled by the agency so far.

The first family I meet is headed by Hassan, a 29-year old from Deir-a-Zour. Hassan sits with his wife and her mother, cross-legged on the carpeted ground. His wife is named Aisha, and he earns a swift glare when he hesitates over her date of birth. She is 23.

It was a few moments before I noticed him; impossibly small and resting in a veiled rocking basket. Baby Bilal is two days old, and his presence feels like a miracle.

Hassan and Aisha’s other two children are Shahad and Diaa. Aged three and four respectively, they have little concept of their homeland. Their home is the camp. They are irrepressibly energetic; they spend the duration of the interview crawling over their father, laughing, shouting, and stampeding in and out of the tent.

Before the war, Hassan worked in construction. He was neither rich nor poor. In his own words; he “secured a living” and was “comfortable.” When asked to describe life in Syria before the war, Hassan uses the word “perfect”. This exultant appraisal of the time before was typical among the refugees I met.

Another man, a relatively poor truck-driver before the war, wistfully described his old life as “heavenly” and “luxurious”. When I asked Hassan what made him decide to leave Syria, he shook his head in exasperation; “I don’t think you understand,” he replied, “there was no decision, we had to leave.”

Hassan lived in an area under government siege. There was no more food, and the neighbourhood was being hit with airstrikes. As is typical of Syrian refugees, Hassan and his family did not leave Syria directly; they first moved through each province of Syria by foot or car, avoiding checkpoints as they went.

Hassan does not work in Lebanon, and has no desire to stay; he is “forced to be here.”

According to Hassan, the family were rejected by the UNHCR for assistance and no reason was offered. Hassan tells me that he borrows money from the camp manager to survive. I asked Hassan what the future holds for him and his family; “I don’t know, but judging from what has happened so far, what is left for hope?”

Hassan’s tent is clean, bright, and adorned with brightly coloured drapes and cushions. His children’s clothes are fresh and untorn. Hassan’s relatively good fortune only becomes apparent when I arrive at the tent of the next family.

From Deir-a-Zour also, the father declines to provide any names. It is common for Syrian refugees to withhold their identities for fear of reprisals against family members left behind. Others simply prefer anonymity at a time in their lives when dignity is scarce. The floor is bare in parts, exposing the gravel beneath. Where there is carpet, it is dirty and worn.

The man lives with his wife, three sons, and one daughter. The eldest child is 11. They have been in the camp for five months. The father had remained in Syria with his family for five long years of war, “hoping things would settle down.” He hopes to return to Syria in the future, as “one’s country is best for him.”

The children are noticeably dirty, and their clothes are stained and ripped. One has a nasty scratch on his right cheek. The reason for their appearance becomes clear: the father recently suffered a stroke and cannot work. To pay the landlord, the children collect garbage. The most the father can do is accompany them to make sure “nobody bothers them”.

One child is epileptic; the family have no access to medical care. The father is desperate for assistance. He hopes I can help him. I explain, again, who I am and the limitations of what I can do, but he does not hear me.

We leave to head to another nearby camp. I wait in the car while the interpreter heads in first to ensure access. I wait a long time. This particular camp manager, a Syrian, is wary of our presence, and is deliberating on whether to talk to me at all.

He is a heavy-set man, and mistrust hangs heavily on his shoulders like a perfume. Eventually he relents and we are invited into his tent. The reasons for his reticence become clear. His tent is reminiscent of a Sheikh’s; plush settees, a flat-screen TV, wall-mounted electric fans, and ornate shisha pipes. The manager withholds both his name and eye-contact.

But he is forthright about the numbers: There are 55 tents housing about 250 people. The rent for each tent is 100 dollars per month. He admits that many tenants borrow from him to pay the rate. His living conditions suggest he does well out of whatever arrangement he has made with the land-owner.

There’s a lot of money to be made from 1.5 million people with vanishingly few options of either returning to their homes or moving onwards.

With our access granted, I was introduced to Hanoof Suliman; mother of eight children in the camp, and head of her family. Hanoof speaks clearly and directly, and insists that coffee be served to her strange, pale guest.

Hanoof has been in the camp for about a year, but fled her home in Homs in 2012. For three years she remained in Syria, staying “as close as possible to home,” always hoping to return. Hanoof left Homs because of “shelling, and killing with knives.”

She describes her friends losing their houses or being killed. Her memories of life in Syria before the war are overwhelmingly positive; “Good lifestyle, good schools, good healthcare.” Hanoof is “devastated” by what happened to her country. Hanoof has three sons and five daughters.

All but three of her children are in school; NGOs provide primary-level schooling to children in the camps. The three “eldest” daughters are working to meet the cost of being a refugee in Lebanon.

I ask for the ages of the three working daughters; the eldest is 15. They work in farming where they are “low-paid” and “humiliated.” Hanoof receives food through a UNHCR voucher system. The rent is not the only financial concern faced by Syrian refugees; the Lebanese government requires that refugees periodically renew their residency permits (providing, of course, that they actually have residency). Renewal is expensive, and includes “unofficial fees” paid to unscrupulous pen pushers.

Failure to renew on time leads to fines, which accumulate over time. Her children will inherit debt in a country where they will likely never be recognised as citizens. Hanoof hates living in the camp, and hopes to be “elsewhere, with the children, together.”

Every refugee I met, in both camps I visited, hated living there. They all express the same frustration, the same sense of indignity and impotence; it’s not hard to imagine the Beqaa Valley as a fertile recruitment ground for enemies of the Lebanese state.

Lebanon has been engaged in an undeclared war with ISIS since June 2014, when the town of Arsal was invaded and briefly held by ISIS and al-Nusra Front fighters. The experience of Syrian refugees in Lebanon ensures far too many of the idle and angry.

If any people in the world should realise the dangers of allowing huge numbers of refugees fall victim to poverty, alienation, and consequent violence; it must surely be the Lebanese. Have the memories of Palestinian gunmen battling for the Holiday Inn been forgotten already?

As I was leaving, a girl insisted that I visit one more family. They had arrived only the night before from Syria. They had survived the war for five years, living in a town near Homs.

I counted five children, but there may have been more; there was movement in the dark corners towards the back of the bare tent. There were young children holding even younger children, with the casual aptitude of seasoned parents.

The grandfather spoke through a toothless mouth; they had been smuggled over the border. The Lebanese army were routinely turning away refugees, which meant they had to run in the night. They had survived five years of war before reaching their breaking point. Some of the children knew nothing else, and it showed in their steady gaze.

They were hardly children at all anymore, and they weren’t safe yet.

Pics: Hugh Golden