“A hundred thousand welcomes”- Ireland’s Dismal Response to the Global Refugee Crisis

Tomorrow Saturday, the 5th of September, has been declared a Day of Action in solidarity with refugees seeking refuge in Europe, as the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War unfolds before our eyes.

At present Ireland has agreed with the European Commission to accept a quota of just 600 of the vast number of refugees who have made the perilous journey to Europe, and arranging to resettle 520 refugees from outside the EU over a period of two years.  Minister Fitzgerald has indicated that this number may treble to 1,800 after the meeting of EU Justice Ministers on 14th September. This is still a disgracefully low number when compared to other Member states- On Monday Angela Merkel announced that Germany will accept 800,000 such refugees, Austria 80,000…

To put these figures into context the UNHCR Global Trends 2014 report that 13.9 million people have been displaced from their homes due to conflict or persecution in 2014. It would surprise many to know that the country hosting the most number of refugees in the world is Turkey. The second largest is Pakistan.

As a country with a longstanding history of emigration in order to find fresh beginnings and a better life it is difficult to stomach Ireland’s completely inadequate and disproportionate response to this issue. Will our country renowned for its welcome turn its back and close its eyes to those most in need?

There is absolutely no doubt that Ireland has the capacity and resources to assist and support a vastly higher number of people than it has agreed to accommodate.

What makes this response even more difficult to accept is the continued depiction of these events as a “European migrant crisis”, what clearly is occurring here is a global humanitarian tragedy.  What should be remembered and seems to have been forgotten in this time of disaster is that offering relocation and international protection to those seeking asylum and fleeing acts amounting to systematic violations of human rights is not an act of charity. It is a matter of legal and moral obligation under International and European law.

Directive 2001/55/EC, to which Ireland has opted in, introduced a special mechanism for dealing with “mass influxes” of displaced persons into the EU who cannot return to their home countries because they would face a situation characterised by armed conflict, violence or human rights violations. This Directive seeks to promote a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons. It is surprising that the Commission have stated that any proposal to trigger the temporary protection regime provided by Directive 2001/55/EC would not be justified in the present circumstances. This is something that should be revisited by EU leaders to show united and effective global leadership and to lessen the disastrous effects of the refugee crisis.

So what can we do:

  • Sign up to Uplifts petition calling for the acceptance of thousands of refugees not hundreds. The petition has over 30,000 signatures so far.
  • Join the crowds this Saturday 5th September at the Famine Memorial, Custom House Quay, Dublin 1. This event has been organised by the Irish Refugee Council and the MRCI to send a message to the Government and to the world that refugees are welcome here.
  • Follow http://www.whoismytd.com/ to submit an email to our TDs to emphasis that the Government’s reaction will not be accepted. This template has been prepared by the Immigrant Council of Ireland. Only takes a minute!

Eimear Nugent

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