Martin advocates ‘priority system’ for migrants and plays down EU proposal for ‘fines’

Tánaiste says more work should be done by international bodies to resolve issues ‘at source’ as conflicts arise

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has played down radical reforms of EU migration and asylum laws which include charges of €20,000 per head for member countries that refuse to host refugees.

Advocating for a two-tier approach to migration, Mr Martin said he believed Ireland would have to prioritise those who land “on our doorstep” seeking accommodation, while making a financial contribution “to other countries dealing with those seeking asylum”.

EU interior ministers on Thursday agreed a new system for a redistribution of migrants across the EU, with an effective quota on how many people frontline states have to process.

Charges, which Poland branded as “fines”, would be put in place for countries who cannot take a share of relocated migrants.


Speaking in Avondale, Co Wicklow on Friday where he opened a €1 million refurbishment of the former homes of CS Parnell, Mr Martin said he preferred “not to call them fines. It is about solidarity”.

Mr Martin said many countries in Europe were experiencing some “pretty significant migratory flows for quite a long time” before the current crisis in Ukraine” and they felt that there was not adequate for sharing between all member states in the European Union.

“So we’ve always been supportive of a broader European Union approach, a macro European Union approach, where there was genuine burden sharing, but in the context of the war in Ukraine, clearly that has changed the situation dramatically, as has the number of conflicts in Africa in the Middle East. And then you add in climate change and the impact of climate change. So, it has created huge pressures on many, many communities and societies, which is then adding to the migratory pressure”.

Mr Martin said: “I think we have to prioritise those who are coming in on our doorstep and in respect of burden sharing with other counties, what we are doing there is we are making a financial contribution to assist those countries to support those seeking asylum.”

Mr Martin said the State would offer a variety of accommodation and “tented accommodation will be there as a part of the broader ranger of accommodation options that will be available to deal with the immediacy of people arriving in”. But he said the “objective would be that people would be then that people move down relatively quickly to more acceptable accommodation”.

Mr Martin said a number of initiatives in particular were going to contribute to accommodation. He said “rapid build is going to emerge as a significant contributor to accommodation and that is separate from the modular homes that are sort of close to completion”.

He also cited “the refurbishment of a significant number of buildings that have been identified for quite some time will bring on about 6,000 extra places towards the end of the year. That and the rapid build I think will give us additional capacity to meet the challenges that undoubtedly will arrive”.

He said at a European and global level there would have to be more work to resolve issues “at source” as conflicts arise.

“I think there will be a significant global focus internationally through the United Nations, bodies like the European Union, the African Union to reduce the level of conflict and to resource areas more that are suffering from food deprivation”

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist