The European Union and a humanitarian crisis


Sir, – While Germany’s response to the refugee crisis in recent weeks has been highly commendable, one cannot overlook the botched job the EU has made of the current crisis.

The opening of the Austrian and German borders to Syrian migrants in the past week has been deemed an emergency measure, although the current situation in Europe has long ceased to be an emergency but is instead a crisis.

The EU has been immensely ill-sighted in its attempts to deal with this crisis, from Frontex, the EU’s border agency, to the Dublin Agreement, all misjudged and failed efforts aimed at reducing the number of migrants entering Europe.

The Dublin Agreement, in particular, allows central European states to sit back while those on the periphery, such as Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary, are left to deal with a humanitarian crisis for which they are ill-prepared and underfunded. We saw a similar pattern of behaviour in the EU’s handling of the financial crisis in Greece. The EU needs to prove that it is not just a fair-weather institution, but that it is also capable of coping in difficult times. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – It is heartening to read the letters to The IrishTimes and hear on RTÉ radio the many voices of support and empathy for those fleeing their devastated, war-torn countries,

However, I sincerely hope that refugees other than Syrians will be included in the Government’s about-turn. Of course we have to offer asylum to Syrians, but please do not overlook Eritreans, and those of many other nationalities seeking protection. We must begin to realise today that only by caring for and sharing our resources, as individuals and as nations, rather than hoarding, will everyone have the possibility to live and thrive in today’s interconnected world. And please do not forget the asylum seekers already in Ireland, some of whom who have been here for many years, who need a secure status. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – An overview of worldwide media reportage shows a narrative in which the current Syrian refugee crisis is essentially a concern for the EU to resolve. While it is true that a quota system formula for EU member states would provide much-required alleviation, it ought to be noted that the problem originates outside of European borders and thus should be considered chiefly as a worldwide matter to be placed under the auspices of the United Nations.

The population of Syria is approximately 23 million, with media sources reporting variously an approximate displacement of between one-third and one-half of that population. Other upheaval is noted with respect to Libya and the civil war in Yemen. It is demonstrably obvious that a solution crafted by the EU alone is likely to be insufficient.

A need to reduce sea-based migration is also required in order to prevent further tragedies. Encouraging more land-based migration, along designated “roads from Damascus” sponsored by the international community, should take precedence. Pragmatically, however, it should be understood that such an action would necessarily imply that the chief landing points within the EU, presently Italy and Greece from sea-based migration, would change, and thus involve substantial recalibration of the EU’s current co-ordinated response strategy.

This requires a wholehearted and co-ordinated response from the worldwide community. The question of the need for adoption of a renewed refugee quota system is beyond dispute. However, this should be instigated as a mandatory quota for all members of the United Nations, organised by its refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and not the EU alone. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – The reaction of our European leaders to the ongoing crisis is dismal, to say the least. Echoes of the Bosnian crisis, not too long ago, substantiate the view that little progress has been made by both the UN and the EU in preparing the ground for a humanitarian reaction to deal with the fallout from the ravages of war, wherever it occurs. This is a global issue and should be addressed as such. – Yours, etc,


Schull, Co Cork.

Sir, – The recent case of the child washed ashore in Turkey broke all our hearts. We could all see our own children or grandchildren in that photo. It is difficult, therefore, in the wave of emotion that has followed it, to sound a note of caution regarding how we should respond to the refugee crisis.

However, the problem is a world problem, not just a European problem, and needs all the world community to respond, not just Europe.

The well-off countries in the Middle-East have a particular responsibility in this, as well as those countries that see themselves as the world’s policemen, and that have lit the fire in the Middle East that has been at least partly to blame for this crisis. Asian countries must help also.

For every refugee inside the borders of the EU there are many more refugees who have not made it to Europe, and who are perhaps more in need of our help, so the solution has to include them too. The profile of the refugees shown on the television seems to be about 80 per cent male, young and fit. We need to ensure that the weaker members of Syrian society, the very young, the women and the elderly, are assisted also.

Let us act quickly and generously to provide help, but let us ensure that we help the right people, not just now but in the next few years, as the stalemate war in Syria will probably continue for a few more years. – Yours, etc,


Crossabeg,Co Wexford.

Sir, – How can we deal with refugees when we can’t even deal with our own homeless? Would it be the intention to place these refugees in cars at the side of the road or in parks or industrial estates as we have witnessed with the Irish homeless in recent months?

Would it not be more effective to deal with the causes of the refugee crisis instead of trying to handle the symptoms? Is it not time for the UN to mandate for intercession in the conflicts precipitating this crisis and protect these people in their home states? – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – In a recent interview on the BBC, a Middle East specialist at Chatham House, the Royal Institute for International Affairs, explained why the Gulf states are not accepting refugees. They have signed few, if any, of the relevant treaties and accords and – this was put simply and brutally – they do not want these refugees. These states are hugely wealthy and wish to reserve their wealth for their own citizens.

Michael Jansen (“Palmyra reaps what Saudi Arabia sowed”, September 2nd) reminds us that Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars exporting the puritanical and cruel Wahhabi ideology, which formed the basis of al-Qaeda and now of Isis. Why on earth would refugees running from Isis in Iraq and Syria want to go to Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism is the state religion? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Kevin McEvoy, FSC (September 3rd) suggested that every parish should give flesh to the social gospel by adopting a refugee family. He beat Pope Francis to that inspiring message by at least three or four days. I hope the papal nuncio has already earmarked Brother McEvoy’s name for his next episcopal nomination. Killaloe is vacant, and convenient for a Laois man. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – I suggest we should accept at least as many refugees as we have “illegals” in the US. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Germany rips up the EU rule book on immigration and is the object of unstinting praise from the salon liberals and their mouthpieces in the media.

When the Visegrád countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovaki) do it, they are the butt of scorn from those same salon liberals.

Hungarian prime minster Viktor Orbán is to be commended for being one the few European leaders who is trying to discuss rationally the consequences of what is now happening.

We are being browbeaten into allowing into our European Union what may turn out to be millions of people whose culture is not just different, but in many cases diametrically opposed to common European values. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.