UNHCR welcomes new Integration Strategy and Fund
08 February 2017
Karen refugees in Co, Mayo, Ireland. Photo Phil Behan/UNHCR
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has strongly welcomed the launch yesterday of a new Community Integration Fund under the government’s Migrant Integration Strategy as a practical way for local communities and NGOs to proactively support refugees and migrants coming to Ireland. The Agency commended Minister Stanton’s focus at the launch on community organisations and civil society, however, described the lack of specific action points to promote refugee integration as a missed opportunity.
“UNHCR’s own research shows that refugees and asylum-seekers face specific barriers to integration requiring targeted responses to their needs” said Enda O’Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland. “Long periods spent in direct provision, for example, can lead to wide gaps in employment records, while a lack of documentation can hinder the recognition of qualifications by employers.”
UNHCR thus calls for specific integration support for refugees and asylum-seekers and for efforts to further speed up decision making for asylum claims to shorten the length of time people spend in direct provision.
“Early recognition of people in need of protection is in the best interests of both applicants and the State. For people in need of protection, it allows them to access their rights, and facilitates integration. It means more certainty and clarity for people about their futures.”
Currently, Direct Provision provides access to temporary housing for asylum applicants. Although a recent High Court judgment found that this allowed for the asylum applicants’ basic needs to be met, it commented that it was “far from ideal”. Crucially it found that the authorities “should be conscious of the length of time applicants” spend waiting for decisions on their asylum applications. Ireland’s integration policy currently does not specifically address the situation of asylum seekers.
In addition to speeding up overall decision-making times, UNHCR also called for Irish law to be brought into line with that of other European Union (EU) states by putting the reception of asylum-seekers on a legislative footing and providing access to the labour market where there is a delay in issuing a decision.