On Wednesday, 12 March 2014, in response to an approach by members of the Syrian community in Ireland and in light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria, the Irish government announced the launch of the "Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme" (SHAP).
The SHAP will focus on offering temporary Irish residence to vulnerable persons present in Syria, or those who have fled from Syria to surrounding countries since the outbreak of the conflict, who have close family members residing in Ireland. It will allow naturalised Irish citizens of Syrian birth and Syrian nationals already lawfully residing in Ireland to apply for vulnerable close family members to join them in Ireland on a temporary basis for up to two years. These are persons who are considered by the family member ("sponsor") living in Ireland to be most at risk. A sponsor may be a single person or the head of a family unit.
A quota of two family members per sponsor has been established under the Programme. However, sponsors can submit applications for up to four of their most vulnerable family members, two of whom should be prioritised by the sponsor for admission in the first instance. However, in order to protect family unity and to address individual family circumstances in a considered, humane and reasonable way, the intention would be to apply this rule in a flexible manner.
The SHAP came into operation on 14 March 2014, with the final date for the submission of applications required by 30 April 2014. Priority will be given to applications in respect of persons deemed to be the most vulnerable and who do not present any evident concerns relating to community safety or State security, namely:
- Elderly parents;
- Unaccompanied mothers and their children;
- Single women and girls at risk; and
- Disabled persons.
However, this does not exclude any other family member who has been identified by the sponsor as being at serious risk.
Under the SHAP, sponsors must undertake to support and maintain family members admitted under the Programme for the duration of their temporary residence in Ireland. Some of the conditions of entry include that persons of working age who are admitted will be entitled to seek employment for the duration of their temporary stay; there will be access to medical treatment or services where such provision is essential and the person concerned or the sponsor does not have sufficient resources to pay for that treatment or service; and early childhood, primary or secondary education for persons under the age of 18 years will be made available.
Those admitted under the Programme will not be entitled to apply for or receive any social welfare benefits or housing from a housing authority.
The Irish government has already committed to accepting up to 90 Syrian refugees in 2014 through the UNHCR resettlement programme, which will not be affected by this initiative.
To view the official announcement by the Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence on 12 March 2014, please click here.