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Representation in Ireland
Factsheet28 February 2021

Ireland's participation in EU schemes to relocate and resettle refugees

Ireland voluntarily agreed to fully participate in the EU relocation and resettlement schemes set up in response to the migrant crisis that peaked in 2015.

The EU has never forced Ireland to take in refugees or immigrants.

In fact, Ireland has no obligation to take in refugees as, along with Denmark, it has an opt-in or opt-out clause on justice and immigration measures under the Lisbon Treaty.

However, Ireland voluntarily agreed to fully participate in the EU relocation and resettlement schemes set up in response to the migrant crisis that peaked in 2015.

Over one million asylum seekers and migrants arrived in Europe that year, but thousands drowned at sea after being illegally crammed onto overloaded boats by human smugglers.

The European Commission set up an emergency scheme to relocate 120,000 refugees in clear need of protection from Greece, Italy and Hungary to other Member States.

This followed an earlier decision to relocate 40,000 people, bringing the total to 160,000. The Commission later adopted a Recommendation asking Member States to resettle 20,000 people from outside the EU.

Ireland voluntarily agreed to fully participate in the EU relocation and resettlement schemes by accepting up to 4,000 migrants.

In September 2017, the Commission launched a new resettlement scheme in which Member States pledged to resettle more than 50,000 persons in need of protection - the largest EU resettlement scheme to date. Ireland has pledged to take 1,200 people under the new scheme.

Here are some facts regarding migration

  • The numbers registering for asylum in Ireland are below the EU average
  • In 2020, just over 1,500 people applied for asylum in Ireland, or less than 0.4% of the EU total.
  • Two-thirds of all people registering for asylum in the EU in 2020 did so in Germany, Spain or France.
  • The numbers of people applying for asylum in the EU have been falling and are now almost a third of the number recorded in 2015.

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