The European Union (EU) refugee crisis has represented the greatest challenge to the values of the European Union since its inception. The scale of human need is unprecedented; since 2015 one and a half million men, women and children have taken to the seas, often in unsafe and unseaworthy boats, seeking refuge and protection in Europe. In the last three years more than ten thousand did not make it. This reality is not acceptable and demands a national, regional and global response from Ireland. This paper’s title, Sharing Responsibility, Saving Lives, highlights the two key challenges:
- A call to save life and to intervene when human life is at risk. In the context of the EU Refugee Crisis this goes beyond a naval response. States must offer access to protection and refuge.
- A more equitable and fair distribution and sharing of responsibility across EU Member States, responding appropriately to the scale of the humanitarian and longer-term protection needs of those arriving and rescued from sea, in a way that respects their human dignity.
This paper critically analyses Ireland’s response to date. Following the conclusion of the first phase of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) in December 2017, the paper considers its effectiveness, scope, scale and impact. The practical and the political barriers to delivery of this programme will be explored. The paper seeks to hold Ireland to account for the public commitments made. Evidence-based recommendations address gaps in delivery in Ireland’s response. The recommendations seek to inform policy and practice going forward, prioritising the preservation of life and equitable sharing of responsibility for people seeking refuge in the EU.