Time to turn the tide of human misery
Published 12/05/2015 | 02:30
Fleeing terror, poverty and conflict, they risk their lives to travel in leaky vessels bound for strange unwelcome shores, which they may never even get to see. These are the odds weighed up by the parents and their children who undertake these dangerous voyages driven by despair.
It should not be an unfamiliar story in this country; a place where coffin ships and heartbreaking goodbyes are woven into the fabric of our not too distant history.
All the more surprising then, to find our Government opposing the migrant quota proposals which are to be discussed by EU ministers tomorrow.
It is true that we have come through a difficult time, but it pales into insignificance when put into the context of the suffering of those whose only prospect of a better life is in the hands of the people smugglers.
Last night, the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini pleaded for UN help to dismantle the criminal groups behind this tragic trafficking. She shouldn't have to plead.
"We need to count on your support to save lives," she told the Security Council.
Ireland should be championing this call and also leading by example.
More than 1,800 migrants have already died in the Mediterranean in 2015. This is a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.
Our former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland, who is a special representative of the UN on migration, said yesterday: "The fundamental issue here is saving people who are drowning in the Mediterranean . . . this is not about getting into battles about quotas when we are facing a humanitarian crisis."
As Mr Sutherland noted, at the moment, there are a small number of countries who are doing all of the heavy lifting when it comes to refugees who are escaping persecution. We all have a duty to look after them. Tomorrow, 28 members of the EU will debate their next move. It behoves our representatives to speak on behalf of those who have no voice and insist that we do everything we can to bring this nightmare to an end.