Close to 500 applications have been received from refugees in Ireland who want family members to join them here under a reunification programme being run by the Department of Justice.

The Humanitarian Admission Programme reopened for a second time in December last year and allows refugees from the top ten major refugee-producing countries to apply for their relatives to live in Ireland.

The scheme allows for the admission of up to 530 vulnerable family members from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Eritrea and Burundi.

The deadline for the scheme is tomorrow (8 February).

First round

The Humanitarian Admission Programme first opened in May last year but a high number of applications were rejected.

The scheme received 908 proposals but over two thirds of these (694) were not considered as they were deemed incomplete.

Just 214 valid proposals were looked at by the department - 141 of these were granted.

Now members of the Syrian community here have expressed concerns about difficulties applying for the scheme.

The ISSM group wrote last month to Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton expressing "several urgent issues" with the scheme.

The letter, seen by RTÉ News, says that some IHAP beneficiaries from the last scheme have had problems exiting Syria to travel to Ireland - particularly from the province of Idlib - and say the situation in Syria remains extremely dangerous.

They are calling on the Department of Justice to issue travel documents as soon as possible and are asking whether the documents can be sent to the Irish Embassy in Ankara, Turkey to prevent them having to make a dangerous journey to the Syrian capital Damascus.

The letter says others have experienced problems sending necessary travel documents from Ireland to Syria, whilst others are facing problems with travel costs and with obtaining visas.

Syrians whose applications were refused under the first scheme have also expressed concerns that this latest round of applications may be their last chance to be reunited with family members here who they otherwise would not be able to see again.

The letter states: "These family members are often extremely vulnerable. We know of at least one case of a relative for whom an IHAP application was refused, who has since died in Syria."


A shortage of housing in Ireland has also caused problems and Syrians say one of the main reasons for refusal of applications to date has been trying to prove that they can provide accommodation for family members here.

The letter says:

"We are aware that many applications from Syrians who are currently living in Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres have been turned down, despite the urgency of their cases for family reunification."

In a response the Department of Justice said:

"Due to the current national housing shortage, priority is being given to those who can demonstrate that they can provide accommodation for their family members. The proposal form asked the proposer to confirm the number of bedrooms available and the number of existing residents already housed there. Proof of accommodation may be required from a landlord to support the proposal."


In relation to travel arrangements for those seeking to move to Ireland under the scheme the department said the letter of offer does not contain any instruction on where beneficiaries should travel to receive documents.

It said those applying were not encouraged to send original documents and that certified coloured copies of the original and a translation were required. Electronic versions were also permitted.


The Department of Justice said all admissions under the IHAP scheme are under the discretionary powers of Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan. Its officials will meet the ISSM this week.

Asked whether there is likely to be a third round of the scheme, the department said it expects a high number of incomplete proposals under the first time to have been resubmitted under the second call.

It said calls for proposals will continue until the 530 places allowed for under the scheme are filled.