O'DONNELL SAYS IRELAND CAN BE PROUD OF ITS RESPONSE TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS IN KOSOVO - AND WILL CONTINUE TO PLAY ITS PART
- Response from Public and State Agencies overwhelming
- Says huge refugee burden on FYROM must be eased
- £ 6.39 million agreed by Cabinet for humanitarian crisis in Kosovo
The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Liz O'Donnell TD, says Ireland can be proud of its response to the humanitarian emergency in Kosovo - and will continue to provide the necessary resources to ensure the highest standard of care and assistance for refugees in this country.
Speaking in a Dail debate on human rights today, the Minister said her Department was in daily touch with the UNHCR and is ready to respond immediately to a further request to take in additional refugees.
"We made an initial commitment to receive 1,000 refugees and, so far, upwards of 700 will have arrived by later today when the latest group arrives in county Kerry.
The welcome given to them has been outstanding and there have been many offers of support and hospitality from local communities. In addition, the response of the Irish public has been tremendous with Irish agencies receiving at least £6 million in voluntary contributions from the public since the start of the crisis".
"There has been an unprecedented and unique team effort on the part of central government departments, local authorities and health boards. Public services, local authorities and individuals have rallied around to ensure that the refugees who arrive
in this country are given a very warm welcome and are provided with the care and services they need".
Minister O'Donnell said in the short time they had been here, the Kosovar refugees had already begun to take an active part in their local communities.
"Already, some have taken up employment. Mothers with children have joined mother-and-toddler groups. Some children have started swimming lessons and have been introduced to GAA games. Language classes are commencing for adults with a separate summer programme for children who will attend local schools in the autumn" she added.
She confirmed that Ireland had already contributed £2.6 million in humanitarian assistance to the region and the Government had agreed this week to a further allocation of £6.39 million.
"Six million pounds is being sought to allow us to continue to respond to this and other emergencies which may arise over the remainder of the year. The rest will be used to bolster the resources of the Refugee Agency, under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs, to help it implement Ireland's refugee evacuation programme. A technical team from Irish Aid will visit the region later this month to monitor the funding already disbursed and to develop proposals for future assistance" the Minister added.
She told the Dail the international community would have to continue to provide for the immediate needs of the thousands of people who were being denied the most basic human rights and were living in the most difficult conditions in the countries bordering Kosovo where up to 700,000 were in camps with host families.
"In addition to purely humanitarian concerns, it is imperative to demonstrate solidarity with States like FYROM and Albania which are bearing the brunt of the consequences of the crisis in Kosovo. While our overriding priority has to be a political settlement, the needs of the refugees must be met for as long as is necessary. FYROM is carrying a disproportionately heavy burden and it is in the interests of all who wish to see stability return to the region that we deliver assistance to that vulnerable country with the minimum delay" she said.