O'Donnell says Ireland must be prepared to receive further groups of refugees if necessary
The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Liz O'Donnell, TD, said today that Ireland may yet need to accommodate more Kosovar refugees, even though hostilities in the Balkans have stopped.
"The Humanitarian Evacuation Programme from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will continue for some time yet and while the first phase of our involvement in this will end with the flight into Cork this week, it is possible that the UNHCR could ask us to take more. As temperatures in the region rise, pressures on water supplies and sanitation will increase, with consequent possible risks to health.
"It is unlikely that the refugees in the region will be able to return to Kosovo immediately as it will be necessary to ensure that they can do so under proper conditions, which include guaranteeing their safety and having the necessary humanitarian supports in place. It is vital that the very old and the very young are not forced to spend the harsh Balkan winter in tents in overcrowded camps. The termination of the war should not mark the end of our humanitarian efforts to help so much. Many refugees are desperate to escape these conditions which will deteriorate as time goes by regardless of the political developments."
"I intend to bring contingency proposals to Government shortly to allow us to extend our welcome to more refugees should this become necessary and my officials are staying in close touch with the UNHCR as it assesses the situation.."
886 Kosovar refugees have arrived in Ireland to date. About 140 more are expected to arrive later this week. The refugees are currently accommodated in Killarney, Tralee, Millstreet, Cork City, Waterford City, Dungarvan, Baltinglass and Kildare Town. The group arriving on Thursday will be accommodated in Crosshaven and Waterford City.