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Micheál Martin speaking to reporters at Camp Shamrock in Lebanon.

Govt doing all it can to accommodate refugees but numbers are unprecedented, says Martin

Tánaiste says the conflict in Ukraine is different to what is happening elsewhere in the world.

Political Correspondent Christina Finn reporting from Lebanon

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT is doing everything it possibly can to accommodate refugees arriving in to the country, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said.

When questioned by reporters in Lebanon today about the different systems to accommodate people fleeing war in Ukraine and those fleeing other countries, the Tánaiste said there is a difference between what is happening in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world. 

“It’s very challenging. I think there is a difference between what’s happening in Ukraine and elsewhere, actually, in terms of the intensity of the war, the wanton nature of destruction of civilian infrastructure, the killing of civilians, the deliberate targeting of civilians, in my view, by the Russian military, and by the Putin regime, all designed to create a migration crisis in Europe,” he said.

Martin said people who flee war from other jurisdictions are equally entitled, under the international conventions to seek asylum.

“We do everything we possibly can,” he said, but pointed out that the numbers seeking asylum under the international protection system has increased fivefold this year. 

“We now have close to 20,000 people seeking international protection,” he said, adding that there are others who have been in direct provision for much longer. 

“So we do everything we possibly can to fulfill our international obligations. But the scale of this is quite unprecedented,” he said. 

His comments come as more than 20 international protection applicants have been left without accommodation since the Citywest Transit Hub closed to new arrivals this week.

While the Citywest is closed to new arrivals, it will remain open for all other matters, including processing of accommodation for Ukrainian Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection (BOTP).

The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) will also continue to provide accommodation for IP families with children.

When asked if the war in Ukraine is just the most worst out of all the conflicts happening around the world, the Tánaiste said: “There’s no question.”

“I mean, 67 million people have fled Ukraine. There are shocking wars in Yemen and elsewhere, but this is the first major war on the continent of Europe. The level of human displacement is enormous,” he said, stating that never in one year has Ireland had to take in over 70,000 refugees from one location.

“That’s never happened. So by definition, it’s unprecedented and it’s different,” said Martin. 

The Tánaiste went on to say that the migration crisis will be the ”dominant issue in Europe and within the European Union in the coming weeks and months”.

“There will be reflections on this in terms of how the international conventions are being applied, as well, in terms of our levels of severity, in terms of jurisdictions that people are fleeing,” he added. 

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