Migration in Europe
In 2015, over 1 million people sought refuge in the European Union by crossing the seas to Italy or Greece, with an estimated 4,000 drowning in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting the journey. The number of people forced from their homes due to conflict or other related reasons across the globe stands at 60 million, the highest level since World War II. The vast majority of these people are hosted in countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lebanon and Jordan, which struggle to provide basic services to increasing populations.
From the outset, Ireland committed to help address this crisis. We volunteered to accept up to 4,000 refugees under EU Relocation and Resettlement programmes, in addition to our existing commitments under UN programmes. These new residents began arriving in Ireland in 2015. Ireland also established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, on which the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is represented, to assist refugees in settling in their new home.
In 2015, Ireland sent three Irish Naval Service vessels - L.É. Eithne, L.É. Niamh and L.É. Samuel Beckett - to participate in a migrant rescue mission in the Mediterranean. Almost 8,600 people were rescued from drowning by the Irish Naval Service vessels in 2015. Our Embassies in the Mediterranean region provided logistical support to the Naval Service as they carried out their Search and Rescue missions.
Through Irish Aid's Rapid Response Initiative, we deployed five members of our Rapid Response Corps to support our UN partners in the humanitarian response underway in the Middle East and the Balkans. Ireland also dispatched nine tonnes of blankets for distribution to refugees in Serbia in December 2015. In addition, we supported the work of our NGO partner World Vision in Serbia and the International Rescue Committee in the Balkans.
Ireland's largest single migration-related humanitarian response during 2015 was to the Syria crisis. By the end of the year, more than 260,000 people had been killed and some 13.5 million people within Syria were in need of humanitarian assistance.
Ireland pledged to give €12 million in support to the Syria crisis and ultimately gave over €13.7m in total over the course of the year. By year end, this brought our total humanitarian assistance to the Syria crisis since 2012 to over €42 million. Irish funding provided emergency support to those inside Syria, particularly in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, and those who had fled to neighbouring countries, in particular Lebanon and Jordan.
Through our engagement at EU level, Ireland also committed €22 million in November 2015 to support the EU Turkey Refugee Facility and €3 million to the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.