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‘I hope people will find Ireland a welcoming place’

By Sarah Mac Donald - 04 September, 2015

refugee crisis

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said Europe has not been responding adequately to the refugee crisis and he appealed to Ireland to do more and respond generously to the plight of those fleeing countries like Syria and Libya.

Speaking on RTE Radio News at One on Thursday, the Archbishop said, “If Europe wants to be what it hopes to be – a force which unites people and brings people together and breaks down borders, part of that is also reaching out…”

Referring to European ambitions to be a world economic power and a world political power, he underlined that Europe also has a humanitarian responsibility.

The Archbishop said most people were shocked on Thursday by the image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body washed ashore in Turkey, when he drowned trying to reach the island of Kos. His brother and mother also perished.

He also asked what the Austrian police who opened the abandoned truck in which over 75 people, including children, had died on an Austrian motorway, and he paid tribute to the Irish Navy staff and their role in rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean.

“This is the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War and it is not going to go away,” he said.

He said Ireland must prepare today to accept refugees. “These people are desperate. They are being exploited.”

Elsewhere in the interview he said he hoped the refugees that come to Ireland find it “a welcoming place” and that these families should be received with generosity.

“We should ensure that what is provided to these refugees is something that is worthy of them and not just an emergency bed.”

The Archbishop told RTE’s Richard Crowley that his friend, the nuncio in Syria, who has never left the country despite the conflict, had said he was sickened by politicians talking about what is going on while arms were flooding in from all over the world.

“Until you do something about the situation of Libya these poor unfortunate refugees are going to be exploited and exploited and exploited in a non state… we can’t allow that to continue,” he commented.

He suggested that the existing legal procedures for taking migrants into the European Union – the 1997 Dublin Agreement, which states people should get refugee status in the first country that they enter into, needs to be overhauled.

Asked about the number of refugees Ireland should accept, Archbishop Martin said the Government should have a plan in place for when that figure is agreed.

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t start moving on that at this stage. What we have to do is to ensure that we receive them well,” he said.

He added that he believed parishes would be willing to take in refugees.

“We would have to have the legal framework for taking refugees, it is up to the Government to establish that. I’ve heard a number of other bishops saying the same thing – that parishes would be quite willing to respond in this way.”

Highlighting the role of traffickers in the crisis, he said it is “a huge business” and that every one of the refugees has paid for this horrendous situation in which they find themselves.

“20,000 traffickers have been identified but how many of them have been caught? Where is the money? The people who trafficked in Libya don’t put that money into a bank in Libya, they are probably in banks in the EU. Have we addressed that?” he asked.

Separately, Trócaire’s Executive Director Éamonn Meehan has called for the Dáil to be recalled early to “establish an immediate and effective response” from Ireland to the European refugee crisis.

In a blog, he states that the people of Ireland have made it clear that they want to help distraught refugees arriving in Europe and are looking for leadership on how we as a nation can act.

“Many have seen and are distressed by the tragic image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body washed ashore in Turkey, as he drowned trying to reach the island of Kos. How can we continue to turn our backs and close our borders to children like him?” Éamonn Meehan asks.

He warns that as EU Member States continue to disagree over refugee quotas and a common position to this crisis, innocent lives are being lost.

“These people cannot wait any longer for the safety and security they hoped for on reaching Europe. Instead of facing militarised responses and razor wire fences, they should be treated with compassion and in a way that respects their rights and entitlements as refugees fleeing war.”

Trócaire’s Executive Director calls for a Dáil recall in light of the forthcoming extraordinary EU Justice and Home Affairs meeting on the 14 September so that a firm plan of action on how Ireland intends to respond to this unprecedented crisis can be agreed.

“The Irish Government should show courage and leadership within the EU by making a definite commitment to increase the numbers of refugees it will receive. Across the country, Irish people are calling for this and the Government must listen,” Éamonn Meehan writes.

He adds that Irish people have a long history of being welcomed into other countries during our toughest times and there are currently millions of people living overseas who are Irish by birth or descent.

“Given our own heritage, we have a responsibility to show solidarity,” he states.

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