Government agrees to provide temporary protection to 1,000 refugees from Kosovo conflict
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, David Andrews TD, today announced that the Government has agreed that Ireland is ready to offer immediate sanctuary to 1,000 ethnic Albanian refugees forced to flee to neighbouring countries because of the conflict in Kosovo. The offer has been conveyed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Minister said "the priority is to provide protection and assistance to people in the region itself. However, if the situation develops, making it necessary to move people out of the region, Ireland will play its full part with other European countries in welcoming and offering protection to refugees". Minister Andrews confirmed that Ireland would of course respond generously should it become necessary to receive further refugees from Kosovo.
The UNHCR, which is the lead humanitarian agency on the ground, will decide whether it is necessary to move people now in Macedonia and Albania to third countries for a period of time, until their return to Kosovo can be secured in peace and security. The UNHCR has emphasised that any movements of refugees must be voluntary and should endeavour not to split up family units.
"If refugees come to Ireland, they will be given refuge and protection until such time as they are able to return to Kosovo in safety and security" said the Minister.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Refugee Agency, along with other relevant Departments and bodies, is currently making arrangements for receiving the refugees. It is planned that the refugees would arrive on a phased basis and would be accommodated in groups in a number of centres around the country. Top