ALMOST THREE YEARS to the day since the conflict in Syria broke out, Alan Shatter has announced a programme which could provide relief to some Syrian families living in Ireland.
The Humanitarian Admission Programme (SHAP) will allow Syrians living legally in Ireland to bring vulnerable family members to live in the State temporarily.
People currently still in Syria or those who have fled to neighbouring countries will be eligible to apply through their relatives in Ireland.
Shatter says the situation has reached “catastrophic proportions” and Ireland needs to do more to “allay the concerns of family members who are present here about their most vulnerable family members”.
He said it was also important to show solidarity to Syria’s neighbours, including the Lebanon and Turkey, which have been shouldering the burden of the refugee crisis since 2011.
Millions of people have already fled Syria or have been displaced internally because of violence and starvation.
Those granted temporary residence under SHAP will be able to stay for a period of up to two years.
Syrians in Ireland will be able to submit applications for up to four of their most at-risk family members, two of whom should be prioritised by the sponsor for admission in the first instance.
However, the Minister said that in order to protect family unity and to address individual family circumstances in a “considered, humane and reasonable way”, the system will be flexibe to avoid the breaking up of family units.
“The programme is an additional initiative in response to the crisis in Syria and is without prejudice to other avenues whereby Syrian nationals might lawfully enter the State, such as family reunification for the family members of refugees and persons with subsidiary protection, and UNHCR’s resettlement programme,” he added.
This initiative is separate to Ireland’s previous announcement that it will welcome 90 refugees to the State this year.
The plan has been welcomed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“The announcement has the potential to provide solutions for vulnerable Syrians, many of whom have been deeply traumatised and face immense hardship,” said Sophie Magennis, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland, who added that “every place counts”.
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