Protest hears calls for Government action on refugee crisis

Hundreds gather in Dublin to express solidarity with people seeking refuge in Europe

A section of the crowd gathered at the Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay in solidarity  with people seeking refuge in Europe.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

A section of the crowd gathered at the Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay in solidarity with people seeking refuge in Europe. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Up to 1,000 people gathered in Dublin today to express solidarity with people seeking refuge in Europe.

Protesters heard calls for the Government to increase the numbers of refugees allowed into Ireland.

At the Famine Memorial, at Custom House quay, Matasem, a refugee from Daraa in southern Syria, who has been in Ireland for 18 months, said he wanted to thank everyone who would welcome Syrian people to Ireland.

Referring to the images of Abdullah Kurdi, the Syrian father who on Friday buried his sons Aylan (3) and Ghalib (5) alongside their mother Rehan (35) at a funeral in Kobani, Syria after they had drowned in while attempting to cross the Aegean sea from Turkey to Greece, he asked:

“Can you imagine the feelings he is having? I would like to speak for every child who dies at the borders, or who dies in the sea, trying to escape. When we see the picture of Aylan this tests our civilisation and our humanity.

“So every word you say about this, every story you share on Facebook, it helps. I would like to say thank-you to you for this child,” he said reaching to touch the sculpted infant in the bronze Famine Memorial scuplture, “and for Aylan and for every Syrian child.”

Peter Kifle, a refugee from Eritrea, said he wanted to “once again thank you for having me here in Ireland”.

Describing Eritrea as “one of the most repressive regimes in Africa” he said he left his “beloved Eritrea” in 2002, by crossing into Ethiopia, then travelling to Sudan, then crossing the Sahara and finally travelling across the Mediterranean.

“I have never been back to my home. I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss the soil, the stone and the trees of my home. If my homeland had been safe I would not have risked my life in the Sahara and on the Mediterranean.”

Writer and actor, Dónal Toolan, said there had been much talk of whether the people fleeing into Europe were migrants or refugees. He said the two preceding speakers had “de-labelled who they are. They are people,” he said.

“I don’t care what the labels are for what people are, but I certainly know we have to respond to people when they walk into the night looking for some kind of brightness, looking for some kind of response from other humans....This is not a crisis for ‘refugees’. This is a crisis for Europe. This is a crisis for our very values.”

Siobhán O’Donoghue, of uplift.ie, said the horror of what is happening as people tried to reach Europe must “not define us”.

“We have to come together. We have to keep going. The generosity and the compassion and the humanity of the Irish people is overwhelming. But it really means noting unless our political leaders and our Government do something to take and welcome an awful lot more people seeking refuge in Europe, into our country. We need to keep the pressure on.

Gráinne O’Toole of the Migrant Rights Centre read the poem Home, by Somali poet Warsan Shire, which is about the forces that drive people to flee their homes. It includes the lines:

“No one would leave home, unless home chased you to the shore, unless home told you, to quicken your legs, leave your clothes behind, crawl through the desert, wade through the oceans, drown... you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat, unless the water is safer than the land.”

People then lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder, at the ralings overlooking the river Liffey. Several were weeping as they stood for a minute’s silence in memory of all who have died trying to reach Europe.