Ireland must ‘opt in generously’ to refugee plan - Robinson

Former president ‘acutely aware’ of social housing crisis but calls on Ireland to do more

 Former president Mary Robinson said: “I think Ireland has to opt in, and generously, because we know our own past.” File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Former president Mary Robinson said: “I think Ireland has to opt in, and generously, because we know our own past.” File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Former president Mary Robinson has said Ireland must “opt-in generously” to the European Commission’s plan to resettle about 160,000 refugees based in Italy, Greece and Hungary around the continent.

In a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, president Jean-Claude Juncker said: “It is not time to take fright, it is time for humanity and human dignity.”

Speaking on the Six One News, Ms Robinson said those fleeing conflict “are entitled to be received as refugees and asylum seekers” who have legal rights.

“They have not been treated with human dignity,” she said. “They have been treated in such terrible conditions. It is appalling. I think Ireland has to opt in, and generously, because we know our own past.

“In fact, I think we’re going to see possibly the need to increase the number in different countries, including Ireland. It’s a big undertaking. Germany is giving great leadership at the moment. Angela Merkel has really understood that this is an issue that has to be addressed in a very significant way.

“Of course she knows it’s good for Germany to have young migrants coming in who are entrepreneurial and who will add to the economy, but still I think her motivation is very good.”

She added she was “very conscious” of the homelessness crisis in the Republic but called on people to embrace refugees and permit them to work.

“I’m certainly very conscious of the acute social housing issue here, of people on the street and sleeping rough, and we have to address that issue,” she said.

“Very many of the migrants coming in have different skills, have different willingness to work, different abilities, and they will add to our economy if they are permitted to work.

“I noted that Juncker advocated that refugees be entitled to work and I think that is a much more humane way to deal with them.”