Europe

Migrant crisis: Ireland to treble refugee intake to 1,800

Migrants on Zefyros beach on Rhodes island, Greece Image copyright EPA
Image caption Tens of thousands of people are crossing the Mediterranean sea to seek refuge in Europe

The Republic of Ireland is to take in at least 1,800 refugees amid growing public outcry over the tens of thousands of people fleeing to Europe.

This trebles original plans to accept 600 refugees over the next two years.

The increase was announced two days after images emerged of three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi's body washed up on a Turkish beach.

"What we have seen demands the most comprehensive response," said Irish justice minister Frances Fitzgerald.

"We want to respond in as humanitarian a way as possible."

Ms Fitzgerald said if European leaders agree to increase the number of refugees being accepted across the bloc to 150,000, it will effectively treble the Republic of Ireland's commitment to the crisis.

"I believe that is a minimum of the response that we will be making," she told RTE Radio.

Crisis

Speaking on RTE television, Irish prime minister Enda Kenny suggested Ireland could take in more than 1,800 refugees.

Mr Kenny said that on the basis that the EU was now looking at relocating more than 100,000 refugees from Greece and Italy, then the figure "may be more" than the 1,800.

"Ireland can cope with more than already taken," he said.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the move was welcome, but added: "The Irish government must be imaginative and generous in its response to a crisis which has a deep historical resonance for the Irish people."

The Irish government made the announcement as the United Nations high commissioner called for Europe to draw up a common mass relocation plan for 200,000 refugees - the worst crisis of its kind since World War Two.

Germany has already accepted 35,000 vulnerable Syrians through a UN refugee scheme, Canada more than 10,000, Australia 5,600 and Switzerland 3,500.

Germany also expects to take in a total of 800,000 asylum seekers through all routes this year.

Separately, it is expected 3,500 to 4,000 people will seek asylum in Ireland this year. The country has a population of 4.5m and an economy growing faster than the rest of Europe after several years of recession and austerity.

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