Dáil Éireann - Volume 544 - 22 November, 2001

Other Questions. - Asylum Seekers.

11. Mr. McDowell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the response he has given to the request from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that Ireland should accept some Afghan refugees who have been refused admission to Australia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29234/01]

60. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if measures are being considered to accommodate programmed Afghanistan refugees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29124/01]

Mr. Cowen: I propose to answer Questions Nos. 11 and 60 together.

The situation of persons seeking asylum in the South Pacific has been a cause of concern to the Government. When the situation of those people at sea in the South Pacific and seeking asylum in that region became apparent at the end of August, I asked our ambassador in Canberra to bring the concerns of the Government to the attention of the Australian authorities. I also asked our embassies to Norway and Indonesia to urge the Governments in Oslo and Jakarta to work with the Australian authorities to resolve the problem.

In our contacts with other countries and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, we encouraged parties to work towards a speedy resolution of this difficult situation through dialogue. The humanitarian concern has been the primary element in our approach, with the expression of the expectation that all the parties involved would fully abide by their obligations under international law. The UNHCR has made informal approaches to the contracting parties to the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees, including Ireland, asking them to do what they can to alleviate the plight of the asylum seekers in the South Pacific and specifically asking if states are in a position to admit some of the persons currently in the South Pacific who have been determined to be refugees by that body as programme refugees. We are currently considering the request from the office of the UNHCR as to how Ireland can best assist the persons concerned and we hope to be in a position to provide an early and generous response to the request.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,