Saturday 22 October 2016

Ireland is 'failing in its duty' to help Med migrants

Published 31/08/2015 | 02:30

Dara Murphy
Dara Murphy

Ireland's response to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean has been "weak" and "not satisfactory", the head of Trócaire has said.

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Eamonn Meehan, executive director of Trócaire, said the Government must step up to the plate and "do more" by allowing thousands of refugees to enter the country.

He pointed out that Ireland has agreed to take 600 refugees fleeing conflict over a two-year period. But he insists this figure is "too small", adding that we're "not acting in solidarity with people who are in grave need".

Mr Meehan was speaking to the Irish Independent after Dara Murphy, Minister of State with responsibility for European Affairs, insisted Ireland continues to take its "fair share" of refugees.

"We have agreed to take the number that have been required of us," Murphy told RTÉ's This Week programme.

"We've taken the figure that was suggested to us on a pro-rata basis. We will continue to play a very significant role. We have a long history of welcoming people from other countries to our shores."

However, Mr Meehan said it is not enough when people are fleeing for their lives.

"We as a nation have a responsibility, given our own past, and given the fact that we also have issues in the United States with many of our citizens who want to remain in that country, to do more for these migrants," he said.

"Given our own history, this is demanded of us.

"We have a responsibility to take more of these refugees. It is not beyond our capability to take several thousand of them."

He added: "We have abandoned the people of Syria, and I think we now have a responsibility, because of that neglect.

"But there also needs to be money assigned to us.

"Looking after several thousand people is going to be costly. But I have no doubt that the EU will make resources available to member states who play their part.''

Mr Murphy, however, stressed the Government's response to the escalating crisis has been "significant" given the size of the country.

Ireland has agreed to accept 600 extra Syrian and Eritrean migrants as part of efforts to ease the ongoing crisis in the Mediterranean.

This is in addition to 520 migrants the State is accepting as part of a separate resettlement initiative for migrants who are non-EU residents.

The extra 600 migrants will be accepted over the next two years, as part of a plan to redistribute refugees arriving in Italy and Greece, across other EU member states.

The southern European countries have long argued that they are struggling to deal with a crisis that should be shared between all EU member states.

Mr Murphy argued it was the EU which requested that Ireland take in 600 migrants.

"We must play our part, and the European Union will have to play an ever greater role, in ensuring that this crisis can't continue."

But he stressed there needs to be a common approach to the problem at EU level.

Amid strong opposition from some member states, including Hungary and Bulgaria, the EU is under increasing pressure to present a cohesive response to the migration crisis.

The Irish naval vessel the LÉ Eithne, and her 69-strong crew, has been involved in more than 22 rescue missions and has rescued almost 3,400 refugees.

The ship, which returned to Cork last month, has been replaced by the LÉ Niamh.

Irish Independent

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