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'I wanted to sweep them up and bring them home': Ministers meet refugees in Greece

Zappone said she wants Ireland to take as many unaccompanied minors from the camps as we can.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

TÁNAISTE FRANCES FITZGERALD and Minister for Children Katherine Zappone are on an official visit to Greece to assess the process refugees go through before they travel to Ireland.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Zappone said 131 refugees from camps will arrive in Ireland before Christmas and from next year around 80 people a month will be received.

The two ministers arrived yesterday and as part of the trip they are visiting reception camps, meeting migrants and staff and speaking with Irish officials working in Greece.

She said one thing that was important for her on the trip was looking at the situations of unaccompanied minors, or children separated from their parents but who are with extended family. The minister said she wanted Ireland to “welcome as many as we can”.

She spoke of three boys from Syria, aged six, seven and eight, who she met. “They were speaking fluently to us in English as well as Arabic, it was just so impressive.”

I wanted to just sweep them up and bring them home with me. Unfortunately, we have to go through the proper procedures and processes.

The key issue, she said, is housing, as Ireland is already overwhelmed by a housing crisis and growing numbers of homeless people.

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“We need to, I suppose, put a call out to both our charities and frontline agencies, perhaps even churches, to come together with us to take a look at ways to ensure adequate housing for the refugees that are coming,” Zappone said.

She said the child and family agency Tusla is also working “flat out” to ensure there are foster families and homes for child refugees who will be arriving in 2017.

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