Labour Minister opposes ‘upper limit’ for refugees

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says we must stand up and respond to refugees in humane way

Phaw Shee and her daughter Say Law La at the Migrant Women – Shared Experiences exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough, Co Mayo. Photograph: Keith Heneghan / Phocus

Phaw Shee and her daughter Say Law La at the Migrant Women – Shared Experiences exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough, Co Mayo. Photograph: Keith Heneghan / Phocus

 

Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said no “upper limit” must be put on the number of refugees accepted in Ireland because this crisis is an evolving “emergency”.

He was speaking in Castlebar, Co Mayo, yesterday at the launch of an exhibition entitled Migrant Women – Shared Experiences at the National Museum of Ireland: Country Life.

The exhibition tells the story of eight migrant women from Africa, Asia and eastern Europe through the medium of film and an array of belongings brought on their journeys.

It juxtaposes their contemporary experiences with those of Irish women who fled the Famine in coffin ships.

“At this moment, we must stand up and accept these refugees and respond in a humane way to the thousands who want to come here and not put an upper limit on it,” Mr Ó Ríordáin said.

His criticisms of the shortcomings of the direct-provision system were echoed by some of the women whose stories are told in the exhibition.

Phaw Shee and her daughter Say Law La (13) are from the Karen community in Burma.

They spent several years in Ban Don Yang camp before coming to Ireland under a refugee programme.

Their family arrived with all their belongings in a striped plastic bag which is now part of the exhibition.

Safe environment

“I just wish that the Syrians and others fleeing their countries are offered the same as us: a place to live and a safe environment,” Say Law La said.

The road to freedom and Irish citizenship was a longer one for Kany Kazadi, who fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo for political reasons.

She was at a direct-provision hostel in Ballyhaunis for four years.

“If I could talk to the Taoiseach I would say: ‘Please do not put these poor people in direct-provision hostels.’ People must be integrated quickly and not locked up in these hostels,” she said.

“We have so much to contribute to Irish society. I am a proud Mayo woman now.”