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A child waits for her mother as she stands outside the family tent home at Ritsona refugee camp north of Athens. AP/Press Association Images
migrant crisis

Ireland is looking to take more refugee children from camps in Greece and Calais

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone says Ireland wants to offer “hope” to the unaccompanied children.

IRELAND IS SENDING representatives to Greece as part of plans to bring more lone migrant children here from the Mediterranean and Calais.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has announced a three-day mission to Greece that will seek to identify lone children who wish to come to Ireland to restart their lives.

Experts from Túsla, the Child and Family Agency, leave for Greece today as Ireland seeks to fulfill and exceed its promise to provide a home for 20 unaccompanied children.

“While my department and Túsla does respond to the needs of an average of 100-lone-children who arrive in Ireland each year,” the minister said.

I am deeply concerned about the plight of those left languishing in camps both in the hotspots of the Mediterranean and as we recently saw in Calais.

The minister has said that she wants Túsla to speed up its efforts in relocating refugee children to Ireland and also to identify if additional resources are needed.

It’s estimated by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) that 90,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Europe in 2015. In Greece, 1,604 children are waiting for appropriate shelter.

The plight of unaccompanied minors was brought into sharp focus last month as France cleared the Calais “jungle” camp near the British channel.

Over 1,600 unaccompanied minors were bussed to shelters across France after it was cleared, even as many still hoped to be admitted to Britain.

Minister Zappone said that her department is working to see if Ireland can provide assistance to authorities in France and offer “safety, shelter and hope” to these children.

“Tyrants, terrorists and traffickers have ruthlessly placed children in the frontline of this crisis with many paying with their lives. That is unacceptable and I share the determination of many that Ireland must continue to act,” she said.

The UNHCR’s Ireland office is also pushing for greater movement on the Irish relocation of unaccompanied refugee children. It says that special protection is needed for these children and that their families should also be brought here if they can be tracked.

“Measures, including family tracing, must be taken to identify solutions which are in the best interests of the child,” according to UNHCR Ireland’s Enda O’Neill.

 Where family links are established with relatives in Ireland, these should be investigated and the appropriate legal avenues availed of to bring families together.

Read: ‘We will not tolerate other camps’: Hollande hails ‘Jungle’ clear-out as a success >

Read: “The situation for children in Calais is the worst it’s ever been” >

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