Friday 21 October 2016

Act now on migrant crisis to avoid repeating mistakes of 1930s

Published 21/04/2015 | 02:30

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat gestures as he talks during a joint news conference, in which he says his country is struggling to cope with refugee crisis (REUTERS/Max Rossi)
Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat gestures as he talks during a joint news conference, in which he says his country is struggling to cope with refugee crisis (REUTERS/Max Rossi)

Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta, has angrily denounced the lethargic reaction of his fellow politicians to the drowning of 700 African refugees by suggesting that "a time will come when Europe will be judged harshly for its inaction, as it was judged when it had turned a blind eye to genocide" (Irish Independent, April 20).

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This must surely have awakened memories of Europe's rejection of German Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, which ended in the tragedy of the Holocaust.

I fear that, as in the 1930s, political rhetoric rather than positive action will be the standard reaction of a Europe that is increasingly being enveloped in a siege-like mentality due to the murderous actions of the so-called Islamic State.

However, while this concern is absolutely justifiable, it cannot define a continental indifference to the tragic plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the violence and persecution of perverse organisations like IS - otherwise, as the Maltese premier points out, we face a genocide of monumental dimensions.

Yet, the seemingly indifferent echoes of the past resonate with the forthcoming meeting in Cairo to "stop people trafficking" which, although honourable in intent, will simply debate the issue as refugees die.

This was the outcome of the 1938 Evian Conference, where global leaders expressed their anguish over Hitler's persecution of Jews, but one after another said that due to economic and social conditions they could not accept any more than a token amount of refugees.

We must not let this happen again. We need to demand a reaction from our politicians - any concerned Irish citizen should contact their TD to express their outrage at this humanitarian tragedy.

Dr Kevin McCarthy

Kinsale, Co Cork


EU must deal with traffickers

European authorities must shoulder some of the blame for the latest Mediterranean boat tragedy in which hundreds of desperate migrants lost their lives.

At the heart of this catastrophe is a blasé attitude from the EU, whose lack of funding has led to inaction in dealing with the misery of human trafficking.

Ireland, too, should hang its head in shame, for it was this country which prompted the EU to adopt what is known as 'The Dublin Law', which forces asylum seekers to apply for asylum in their first country of entry. By doing this Ireland has ensured that refugees seeking asylum in the EU will mainly be a concern for the Mediterranean countries.

We have effectively acted like Pontius Pilate with the problem. We cannot pretend that trafficking of migrants is a recent phenomenon, given that last year alone, more than 3,000 Syrians died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

The desperation of these refugees manifests itself in the risks that they take. The EU must get its act together and deal severely with those who profit by trafficking desperate people - and each country with a capacity to do so should show compassion by taking its share of genuine refugees.

John Bellew

Dunleer, Co Louth


We need debate on penal reform

Over recent years, reports on conditions in Irish prisons, particularly those concerning the incarceration of women, have made harrowing reading.

Thankfully, the recent improvements, particularly at Mountjoy, represent giant steps in the humanising of our penal institutions. We have gradually awakened to the view that lawbreakers are sent to prison as punishment not for punishment.

If prison is assumed to prevent reoffending, we have got things badly wrong, as the great majority of offenders reoffend when they have served their sentence.

Apart from moral considerations about human rights, it is in all our interests to see far more investment in helping prisoners to get back on their feet, as they do to very good effect in Norway, which has the lowest reoffending rate in Europe .

The most significant victims of the penal system are the children of those convicted of serious crimes. There are hundreds of innocent children who carry the pain of separation from a loved one and never recover from it. The quality of support available to these children leaves much to be desired.

There is an urgent need for us to determine the central purpose that our penal system is intended to serve.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, UK


Marriage works, leave it alone

On my 67th birthday earlier this year, I received the best gift ever - a new grandson. As I gave thanks for this miracle of new life, I could not help thinking of the many changes that have taken place in my lifetime and wondering what the future might hold for him.

I am researching my family tree. Using the Registers of Births, Deaths and Marriages I have, so far, reached back about seven generations (circa 1850). I'm not yet finished by any means but I have noted one thing that seems to hold the entire exercise together - the institution of marriage.

All of the recorded unions that I have researched, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents etc, comprised one of each sex, male and female.

The point I want to make is that we - not me nor you, nor governments nor legislators, nor well-meaning liberals, nor the media - have any right to even attempt to change the natural or normal order of things.

Marriage, male to female, was divinely instituted and sanctified to provide a union of body and spirit in love, with procreation as a natural and desirable result. It works, and it is why we are here.

The LGBT movement are well served by existing legal rights, they have no need or right to be 'married'.

Let us hold the institution of marriage in respect out of love for all our people. I urge all sensible people to vote a resounding 'No' in the May referendum.

Patrick Noel McAuley

Clondra, Co Longford


Poll debate and mental health

Having read Saturday's Irish Independent (April 18), I wonder do your readers understand the effect the marriage equality debate has on the mental health of people around Ireland?

I picked up the paper to read Justin McAleese's inspiring story. However, before I even got to read his piece, I was met with a headline comparing homosexual acts to those of rape. On another page the argument against marriage equality cited incest as a possible cause for concern should the referendum pass.

Behind this debate there are vulnerable people across Ireland who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality and wondering how they will live their lives.

Just think for a few moments what it must be like for them to see their private lives discussed and debated in such a public forum. I hope they see the support that is there, but I can guarantee you they also see the criticism of a life that, through no fault of their own, they have been born into.

R Barry


Irish Independent

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