Operation "Safe and Sound" Minister announces arrival date for first Kosovar refugees
Ms Liz O'Donnell, T.D., Minister of State for Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for Development Cooperation, today announced that the first group of 150 refugees from Macedonia will arrive in Ireland on 13 May.
"The International Organisation for Migration, which is coordinating the transport arrangements, has confirmed the flight booking from Skopje on Thursday, 13 May,", the Minister said.
"However, given the acute problems of overcrowding and hardship, including the risk of disease, in the camps in Macedonia," the Minister added, "we are trying to bring forward the arrival of this first group. This will depend on whether accommodation can be made ready earlier and on the availability of flights from Skopje, where the maximum capacity at present is ten flights a day. After the first group, we plan to bring in groups of at least 150 refugees at weekly intervals or as soon as accommodation comes on stream."
"I have convened a roundtable meeting of relevant Ministers for tomorrow to push ahead on a coordinated stategy," the Minister continued. "Since we were requested by the UNHCR on 21 April to activate our quota under the emergency evacuation plan for Macedonia, the Refugee Agency, OPW and other State agencies have been working intensively to source, and inspect suitable properties. An interdepartmental committee has been working on the provision of management, health and social services. Many properties inspected have not conformed to fire safety requirements and this has delayed matters."
"An announcement will be made on accomodation for the first group of refugees in the next few days as soon as legal requirements have been sorted out."