Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein backing proposed legislation to allow thousands of refugees to resettle in Ireland.

Direct provision system already under ‘ferocious pressure.’

Minister reveals refugee  centres ‘filling up very fast.’

Application for seventy relatives to join family already here as refugees.

Sligo News File

Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are among the parties backing measures to enable thousands of refugees to enter the State.

The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill moved by Independent Senators Colette Kelleher, Lynn Ruane, Alice Mary Higgins and others – has been introduced as the number of people without homes here has shot to an all-time high.

According to a Department of Housing report, 5,524 adults and 3,333 children were accessing emergency accommodation services in November, a substantial increase in the figures for October. In December, the number of people in emergency accommodation  had grown to more than 7,000.

The Senate amendment to the International Protection (Family Reunification) Bill states that its purpose is to “provide for a refugee or a person eligible for subsidiary protection to apply for members of their family, including a grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, grandchild, ward or guardian, to enter and reside in the State.”

There are concerns that the measure will facilitate the movement of some tens of thousands of refugee relatives to Ireland within a relatively short space of time, piling even more pressure on the country’s already over-stretched housing services, hospitals and schools.

Stating that the Government opposed the amendment, Minister of State for Justice David Stanton told the Seanad that the refugee direct provision system was under “ferocious pressure” and direct provision centres were “filling up very fast.”

He said, “As the Government informed the House in July, the average number of family members applied for under the family reunification provisions of the Refugee Act was 20, and the largest application was for over 70 family members.

“The admission of so many people would have significant and unquantifiable impacts on the provision of housing, health care, education, welfare payments and other State supports. The financial impacts of this proposal are not contemplated in the Bill,” he said.

Senator David Norris said it beggared belief that “large numbers of people are applying to be joined by 70 family members.”

Norris told senators he had received a communication from Active Retirement Ireland which said it strongly supported the Bill “because it recognises the role of grandparents  in families.”

Meanwhile plans to allow the present population of asylum seekers to take up employment, become self-employed or access training are currently under consideration. The government is also set to review the country’s employment permit system with the aim of substantially increasing the number of employment permits to enable low-skilled foreign workers to work in some sectors of the economy.

The development, while welcomed in some business representatives, could have serious implications for the employment prospects and pay rates of young Irish job seekers, particularly in the North West of the State where government support for the region’s economic health has been sparse in the extreme.

A trade union leader has claimed that currently tens of thousands of workers in Ireland are on “exploitive” zero-hour contracts

TDs in Sligo – Leitrim include Fianna Fail’s Eamonn Scanlon, party spokesman on employment and small business, and Marc MacSharry; Martin Kenny, Sinn Fein, and Tony McLoughlin, assistant whip to the Fine Gael Party.