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President Higgins speaks out about Ireland’s slow response in taking in refugees

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Michael D Higgins spoke out about Europe’s slow response to the crisis Picture: Getty

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has used this year’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul to speak out about the delay in accepting refugees to Ireland.

Last September Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald pledged to accept up to 4,000 refugees before the end of 2017 as part of a coordinated European Union effort to ease the refugee crisis.

The figure includes 2,622 asylum seekers specifically from Greece and Italy to be relocated to Ireland under the EU relocation programme.

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A spokesperson from the Irish Refugee Council claimed that so far just 10 of the asylum seekers due to travel to Ireland under the EU relocation programme have made it to Irish shores.

Paperwork delays have meant that refugees have only begun to arrive very recently, although a further 30 are expected to arrive in recent weeks.

Speaking about the refugee crisis, President Higgins said: “We need to look at the process and the process shouldn’t have taken so long to have gotten right, but it isn’t only an Irish situation, all of the countries in Europe who made a pledge have a responsibility.

“All countries in Europe must approach it and look at its circumstances… if, for example, the reason we are not meeting the obligation is because the paperwork in either Greece or Italy isn’t in position, you change the process and you get on with it,” he added.

President Higgins also used the summit to call for an end to empty promises and urged more action to be taken to tackle humanitarian crises around the world.

Member states of the EU agreed to take in a total of 160,000 asylum seekers, currently residing in Greece and Italy back in September 2015.

Ireland had already previously committed itself to accepting around 560 refugees under an agreement with UN refugee agency UNHCR, which was included in the 4000 refugee total in the September pledge.

It is not yet known where the remaining 800 or so refugees will be taken from.

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