Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has warned Irish society it must be alert to the first signs of racism and xenophobia.
Speaking at a conference in Dublin this morning on the challenges for migrants, he told representatives of the department of foreign affairs, as well as church and policy advocates, “People have the right to emigrate.”
Ireland, he said, was fortunate that it had never had a strong anti-European or anti-immigrant political current, but that didn’t mean that anti-immigration couldn’t exist.
The Archbishop, who was the keynote speaker at the ‘Journeying Together: Challenges Facing Migrants Today’ conference, called for better democratic and judicial control processes and urged people to speak out at the first sign that policies were placing immigrants and their children at a disadvantage.
Referring to the experience of multi-culturalism in other countries, the Archbishop said it could create parallel cultures which, in the context of poor social housing policy, could create ghettos.
“Ghettos will only build up walls of division rather than break down barriers of misunderstanding,” he warned.
Describing Ireland’s asylum policy as too long and restrictive, he acknowledged that a balance needed to be struck in order that freedom of movement between Britain and Ireland could not be exploited by organised crime or terrorism.
If anti-immigration policies become more vocal in Britain, Ireland should take a lead on constructive managed immigration.
Asylum policy in emergencies such as the Syrian crisis needed to be ‘flathúlach’ and not just “calculatingly politically correct.”
On the issue of migration and foreign direct investment, the Primate of Ireland called for a healthy management of migration into Ireland warning that the country currently has an “ambivalent ‘green card’ immigration culture”.
Calling on the government to do more on the high levels of youth unemployment in Ireland, the Archbishop said: “Ireland has high quotas of talented youth entrepreneurs but I often hear of the difficulties they encounter in getting finance to start business.”
“It is vital for employment to ensure that entrepreneurship and creativity can flourish among the young,” the Archbishop said.