Friday 30 September 2016

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: 'This is a refugee crisis, not a migrant one. Ireland isn't doing enough to help these people'

David Kearns

Published 03/09/2015 | 14:11

Minister of State at the Department of Justice Aodhán Ó Riordan
Minister of State at the Department of Justice Aodhán Ó Riordan

Europe is facing a refugee crisis, not a migrant one says Minister of State at the Department of Justice Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who believes domestic concerns such as housing should not stop Ireland from doing more.

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Mr Ó Ríordáin said Irish people wanted the government to act and do more to help solve the international refugee crisis.

The smiling faces of Alyan (3) and Galip (5), the two brothers who drown while trying to reach Europe with their mother
The smiling faces of Alyan (3) and Galip (5), the two brothers who drown while trying to reach Europe with their mother
The body of little Aylan (3), washed up on the idyllic Turkish sands at Bodrum Credit: Reuters

“It’s been described as a migrant crisis but it isn’t one, it’s refugee crisis – migrants choose to leave their country, refugees are forced to leave.

Read More: 'We will do more to share the migrant burden' - Howlin says Ireland likely to take in many more refugees

“I know in our own country we’ve a very poor recorded when it comes to the asylum process but when it comes to the imminent issue I think people are asking whether the Irish Government plans to take a lead role – and yes, we do.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, the Minister said Ireland’s pledge to take in 1120 asylum seekers over the next two years was not enough.

“No, we’re not taking enough – we can do more, we need to do more, and Irish people want us to do more.”

Read More: Two little boys - parents of tragic Alyan Kurdi (3) and Galip (5) dreamt of a new life in Canada

Asked if Ireland would be willing to take in 10,000 refugees, based on previous agreements to accept 1pc of the total number of refugees, Mr Ó Ríordáin said he “didn’t want to discuss numbers on air”.

“People want numbers but we can’t give numbers because this is going to be subject of discussions at the EU level.

“I don’t want to start talking numbers on air but a figure of 10,000 does sound like a lot.”

Adding: “We have to do what is compassionate, what’s appropriate , and what’s humanitarian.

“I will say though, the figure of 1120 can be increased.”

“I don’t want situation to evolve in 50 years time when we look back and question why we didn’t do more because of domestic concerns.”

Read More: Desperate migrants storm train at Budapest's main station after police withdraw

A Turkish border guard carries the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi (3)
A Turkish border guard carries the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi (3)

The minister said obviously Ireland had issues at home, and domestic problems had to be faced include homelessness and housing issues, but that these were not competing with the international refugee crisis.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said he believed all of these issues could be addressed “fairly and compassionately”.

“Homing and housing are real issues but they’re not competing ones – we can adequately address these issues together.”

Read More: Migration crisis: Pressure mounts on UK and Ireland to do more for Syrian refugees

Pushed on how the government would fund taking in more refugees and honour its comminets to tackle Ireland’s ongoing housing shortage, he said it was “reasonable” to expect EU funding to cover the cost of housing and supporting any refugees taken in by Ireland.

Hungarian policemen detain migrants in Hungary Credit: REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh
Hungarian policemen detain migrants in Hungary Credit: REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

“We are a county that could take a lead on this but that’s the basis of the EU, that other members states support one another.

“This is a world issue, so it is reasonable to expect a common collective respond – including funding.”

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