Ireland should accept more refugees and migrants, says Howlin

State must play role in ‘one of the most challenging issues for humankind’

Migrants wait to cross Greek Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni, Northern Greece. Photograph: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP/Getty Images

Migrants wait to cross Greek Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni, Northern Greece. Photograph: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Government should welcome more refugees and migrants than the 600 people the State agreed to accept through the EU relocation programme, according to Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.

Ireland has a responsibility to help people who are in “absolute peril” and must play a role in overcoming what has become “one of the most challenging issues for humankind”, Mr Howlin told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

“I think there is a requirement for Ireland to step up to the plate,” he said. “It’s not simply a European issue, it’s a world issue. Some of the difficulties in dislodging people from their homelands in Syria and Iraq are not caused by Europeans and we need to have a world response with a real sense of solidarity and humanity and Ireland will certainly measure up to whatever is asked of us.”

Under the EU relocation plan for refugees, Ireland has agreed to take 600 asylum seekers, mainly from Syria and Eritrea, over the next two years, in addition to plans for the resettlement of 520 Syrians by the end of next year.

Mr Howlin said he was sure the State would accept more refugees and migrants than originally planned but that numbers needed to be determined proportionately on a European level.

Asked whether he would support the introduction of European-wide quotas for accepting refugees and migrants, Mr Howlin said people should be allocated across the EU to help deal with what he described as not simply a European issue but a world issue.

“Simply taking a quota of the numbers that are currently moving is not enough. There needs to be a much broader, much deeper, much longer term solution put in train.

“There’s so many people on the move, so many people whose lives are utterly destroyed who want a prospect for themselves and their children. The notion that we see the bodies of young children on the shores of Europe is just so shocking that we can’t let that lie.”

“Some of the difficulties in dislodging people from their homelands in Syria and Iraq are not caused by Europeans and we need to have a world response with a real sense of solidarity and humanity and Ireland will certainly measure up to whatever is asked of us.”

The solution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis is much broader than simply taking in people who are in tragic circumstances, said Mr Howlin.

“We need to have solutions that bring peace in their homelands, that allow some economic future for impoverished countries.”

Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, has said Ireland must step up and play a part in offering sanctuary and protection to people fleeing war, violence and persecution or history will “not look kindly on us”

The Government and the Irish people must address the most significant test “of our values and our humanity the world has witnessed since the end of the Second World War”, CEO Fiona Finn said.

“Today Europe is waking up to harrowing images of the body of a toddler drowned whilst attempting to reach the safety of Europe’s shores. Will this finally wake us up to the magnitude of the global humanitarian crisis on our doorstep?

“Wringing our hands at the horror or patting ourselves on the backs and hiding behind the bravery of our naval officers’ actions is not enough. History will not look kindly upon nations that did not do their part in this global crisis,” said Ms Finn.

“Despite the economic challenges we have had, Ireland continues to be one of the richest and most prosperous countries in Europe. We have enough to share,” she said.

The Cork-based national refugee organisation called on politicians and policymakers to commit to taking more refugees this year. One refugee or asylum seeker for every thousand in our population, or 4,000 this year, would be a start and follow Germany’s lead, Ms Finn said.

Nasc also called for the EU to provide safe and legal migration channels to Europe and for Ireland immediately to implement reforms to the protection system.

Ireland should follow Germany’s lead and suspend the Dublin regulations for those entering the State from designated “hot spots” such as Syrian, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan (Darfur), where the vast majority of those crossing the Mediterranean are currently arriving from, Ms Finn said.

“Just because it is not happening here does not mean it’s not happening. We must do more,” said Ms Finn.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was flying to France on Thursday to take part in a meeting of European leaders to discuss how the EU can create a united response to the ongoing refugee crisis.