Wednesday 28 September 2016

Migrant crisis has potential to split Europe, warns Kenny

Sarah Collins and Jane O’Faherty

Published 24/09/2015 | 02:30

Members of the Syrian community in Ireland at a demonstration at the Dáil
Members of the Syrian community in Ireland at a demonstration at the Dáil

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned that if the migrant crisis is not handled properly, it has "the potential to divide Europe into old and new".

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Leaders from across the EU met in Brussels last night as they continue efforts to come up with an effective plan to deal with the crisis.

European Council President Donald Tusk called for "a concrete plan" to secure the EU's external borders, "in place of the arguments and the chaos we have witnessed in the past weeks".

As he arrived for the meeting, Mr Kenny said that while differences existed between countries, the important thing was helping those fleeing conflict.

On Tuesday, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania voted against a decision to allow 120,000 asylum seekers be redistributed among EU members using a quota system.

"I do hope that the meeting will not deteriorate into sort of the wrong kind of argument here, and that people focus on the solidarity that has been expressed by everybody in respect of our common humanity," the Taoiseach said.

"The important thing is that logistics and capacity to deal with the consequences of the million, several million, people now in different locations are put in place here."

He said that from an Irish point of view the country wanted to express solidarity "given our history and our traditional understanding of this".

"I hope the meeting focuses on these issues and moves ahead to make decisions and deal with the 120,000 - which is a good start, but there are bigger numbers to follow - and its symptoms, apart from treating the actual cause of the problem," he said.

Mr Kenny added: "What is important is that we put in place a structure and a strategy in respect of providing accommodation and the other facilities for these people, from whichever countries they are.

"And at the same time understanding particular challenges we have in housing and other challenges for other people at home."

Quota

The Taoiseach said he felt Irish people "understand what it is to live on another man's shore".

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said earlier that the quota system agreed was binding on countries and he called on EU member states to "match words with actions".

Meanwhile, members of the Syrian community in Ireland demonstrated outside Leinster House yesterday to draw attention to the ongoing civil war in the country.

The Irish Syria Solidarity Group said that the Syrian regime continued to carry out atrocities among civilians, and called on Irish representatives to act.

A spokesman for the group said that action was needed now to stop further violence at the hands of Syria's government, led by Bashar al-Assad.

"If you want to solve this problem right now, that's what you've got to do. You've got to stop those attacks," he said.

One particular issue highlighted by the group is the use of barrel bombs, which can be filled with scrap metal and dropped on towns and cities throughout Syria. The group estimated that 226 barrel bombs had been dropped in Syria in the past 72 hours.

The Violation Documentation Centre in Syria estimates that more than 95pc of civilians killed in Syria to date have been killed by Assad's forces.

A Syrian who gave his name as Motasem (29), who has been living in Ireland for 18 months, attended the protest. He lived in the conflict for two years, but eventually took the risk of travelling from Turkey to Greece on a migrant boat.

"It's difficult when you are forced to leave your country. It's difficult when you're forced to leave your family. It's difficult when you find your family separated around the world," he said.

Speaking at the demonstration, Fine Gael TD Derek Keating said the crisis required a "global response".

"We have to open up our country. We have to open up our community, but the point is that, from day one, we have to open up our hearts," he said.

Irish Independent

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