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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 1 April, 2020

Ireland to accept 5 migrant minors from Malta following EU deal to relocate almost 300 people

Almost 50 migrants who were stranded at sea for weeks aboard two rescue ships arrived in Malta yesterday.

Migrants disembarking from boats that have been given permission to dock in Malta
Migrants disembarking from boats that have been given permission to dock in Malta
Image: Rene Rossignaud via PA Images

IRELAND IS TO accept five unaccompanied migrant minors to Ireland from Malta after EU countries struck a deal with the Mediterranean country. 

Almost 50 migrants who were stranded at sea for weeks aboard two rescue ships arrived in Malta yesterday following the deal, ending a standoff was branded “shameful” by rights groups.

The 49 migrants, including a baby and several children, were rescued by two boats on 22 and 29 December while attempting to make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing from North Africa to Europe.

But with no country allowing them to dock, they were left stranded off the coast of Malta, suffering seasickness and dehydration, with some briefly refusing food and an onboard doctor warning of psychological stress.

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat yesterday said that an “ad hoc agreement has been reached”, adding that the deal included a decision on the fate of 249 rescued migrants already on the island.

He also said that of the total of 298 migrants, 176 would be sent to Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy.

Another 78 will be allowed to stay in Malta, and 44 Bangladeshi migrants will be sent back to their country.

Unaccompanied minors

The Department of Justice confirmed in a statement that Ireland will accept the minors from Malta. 

Speaking upon the conclusion of discussions between Irish officials with the Maltese authorities and the European Commission, Minister Charlie Flanagan said: “I am pleased to announce that we will offer to welcome five unaccompanied minors to Ireland from Malta. 

These children have been rescued from the Mediterranean Sea in humanitarian search and rescue missions and have been through a terrible ordeal. 

The children will be welcomed to Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. 

Upon referral to Tusla’s team for separated children seeking asylum (TSCSA), a child is provided with an intake assessment which examines their identity, family, known health issues, education experience, journey in Ireland, significant pre-migration events, screening for trafficking indicators and identifying any possible Irish and/or EU resources. 

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, Jody Clarke, public affairs at UNHCR, said that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency will now determine what the best course of action is for the children. 

Tusla has the statutory responsibility for the care of unaccompanied minors in the State. 

“The majority of children of children who have crossed in similar circumstances … let’s say last year, about 20,000 children crossed the Mediterranean. The majority were unaccompanied and separated children, that means they either didn’t have a parent with them or they maybe had an adult with them that wasn’t their parent,” Clarke said. 

“What happens in these circumstances is that Tusla will determine what’s in the best interest of the children, so that may be to apply for asylum for the children, it may be that it’s not, but it’s obviously a very important decision,” he said. 

Clarke added that Tusla will determine what the best form of accommodation is for the children, for example, foster care, or in the case of older children, residential settings. 

In a statement, Tusla said: 

The priority for separated children arriving into Ireland is to place them with their family where possible. 

“Where family reunification is not possible, a child is placed with a suitable foster family. Tusla has a number of foster carers specifically trained in the unique experiences and needs of separated children in Ireland.”

With reporting by Stephen McDermott 

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