The U.N. believes the world is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. At the end of 2015, 63.5 million refugees had been reported. That means that one out of every 113 people on the planet is a refugee. The tremendous number of people seeking refugee status is partially a result of the Syrian civil war and the long-standing war in Afghanistan. While Italy, Greece and Turkey initially received the most refugees, there are now more people coming to these shores than these countries can be expected to take in. Other European Union (EU) member nations are being asked to resettle some of these refugees. Ireland is one country that has agreed to do so. What is the refugee climate like in Ireland? Here are 10 facts about refugees in Ireland:
- A recent poll revealed that 87 percent of the Irish are sympathetic to Syrian refugees. Despite this, approximately one-third of the citizens are worried about the burden that Syrian refugees could place upon the welfare, education, healthcare and housing systems. One-fourth of the Irish were concerned that Syrian refugees could cost their government too much money.
- After countries like Turkey were struggling to accommodate the large influx of refugees safely, the European Commission devised a plan in which other EU member states would begin accepting pre-screened refugees. Ireland was not obligated to participate, but the country volunteered to receive up to 4,000 refugees. As of May 2017, Ireland has taken in 273 refugees.
- The top 10 countries of origin for refugees in Ireland are Syria, Pakistan, Albania, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Afghanistan, South Africa, Iraq, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A little more than half of the refugees are men; women and children almost equally make up the remainder.
- In 2016, Ireland received 2,245 applications for asylum from refugees. The country gave 20.8 percent of these people refugee status.
- The country is helping to relieve the crisis in additional ways. Ireland has deployed border patrol to Greece to aid in processing refugees. Ireland has also deployed naval ships to find and save refugees who leave their countries by sea. Often, ships carrying refugees are dangerously overcrowded, and they are sometimes shipwrecked. In 2015, the Irish Navy saved 8,592 refugees from the Mediterranean Sea.
- While refugees are awaiting status approval, they are housed by Ireland’s Reception and Integration Agency. Here they live in hostel-like settings. Typically, one family shares one room, and individuals are roomed with other refugees of the same sex. Most rooms have televisions, bathroom quarters are shared and meals are served on-site at specific times.
- Those awaiting refugee status in Ireland are not authorized to work, so the Irish government provides them with living stipends. Each adult receives €19.10 per week, and each child receives €15.60. This allowance is to cover any extra living expenses such as cell phones, internet service, clothes and toiletries.
- Primary and secondary education are provided for children awaiting refugee status. To attend a university they must pay the non-EU resident tuition fees, ranging from €9,750 for a business degree to €52,000 for a pre-medical degree. According to the Irish Refugee Council, this is usually unaffordable for a child seeking refugee status, whether or not they have support from their parents.
- On average, refugees in Ireland spend three to four years awaiting refugee status. Some have lived with the Reception and Integration Agency for 10 years.
- Each refugee in Ireland has his or her own story. George Labbad came to Ireland as a teenager from Aleppo, Syria in 2001 to learn English. Labbad eventually returned to Syria to attend a university, so he could take over the restaurant his family had owned for more than 30 years. After the Syrian civil war erupted, Labbad’s family was forced to close their restaurant, which had employed nearly 180 people. Eventually, all of Labbad’s family gained refugee status in Ireland. Labbad laments some, missing his home and the future he planned for, but he has made connections in Ireland and sees the country as his new home. Ireland is his future now.
With each refugee having a unique story, 10 facts about refugees in Ireland cannot begin to sum them all up. Some have left a family in their country of origin, while others have left loved ones in new EU countries. All the same, refugees remember what their homeland was to them while resettling in places like Ireland.
– Mary Katherine Crowley