A complex crisis in migration
Published 09/08/2015 | 02:30
The harrowing loss of life continues in the Mediterranean and we can no longer avert our eyes to the unfolding of a human disaster.
The crew of the LE Niamh have borne witness to the suffering, as have the crew of the LE Eithne before them.
The LE Niamh last week saved 367 lives in one incident - adding to the hundreds of lives saved by members of the Irish Naval Service over recent weeks.
Our sailors must be commended for their professionalism and courage.
Ireland's role, however, is not simply to send brave sailors to a foreign sea to pluck desperate souls from the water.
President Michael D Higgins has described the EU response to the crisis as "grossly inadequate" and "shameful". He has also said the situation is the "greatest human rights issue facing the world at this time".
That is quite a statement in the face of the evidence that up to 60 million people are currently displaced in the world.
The issue of immigration has never gone away but, with the economic downturn, we became a less attractive destination, and the issue slipped down the public agenda.
Intermittently, we have seen revelations about conditions endured by those seeking asylum here.
Similarly, we have followed reports of activities of others who have come here illegally with criminal intent.
The new wave of immigration lapping Europe's shores means the issue is front and centre once more. It is a complex one, but we cannot expect our European partners to deal with the repercussions alone.
Now is the time to develop an immigration system that works to tackle the issue, both for those who need our help and for the Irish people.
We must be vigilant about the risks. As in the general population, there will be criminal elements among any group of desperate migrants.
We also cannot ignore the threat of the massed ranks of illegal migrants being infiltrated by the very terrorist elements they are fleeing.
That is all the more reason for us to insist on an effective and speedy system to deal with this sort of migration we now face.
Having a situation where those seeking asylum status can live for many years in direct provision centres is not sustainable.
Our people deserve to feel secure in our country and yet be allowed to be generous with help for those who need our aid.
We cannot simply turn our backs on those who yearn for a better life for their children.
We have benefited from the many times when countries welcomed our people in search of a brighter future.