Wednesday 17 January 2018

Bishop calls on Ireland to take more migrants

Dinghies from the LÉ Eithne approach another overloaded vessel in the Mediterranean at the weekend
Dinghies from the LÉ Eithne approach another overloaded vessel in the Mediterranean at the weekend

Ralph Riegel and Sarah MacDonald

The Catholic Church has called on the Government to "open our doors" to more migrants from the Mediterranean.

The comments from Bishop John Kirby come as Defence Minister Simon Coveney said that other EU countries should take responsibility for their fair share of the response to the refugee crisis.

Mr Coveney's said that Ireland will consider accepting the settlement of more than the 300 refugees already agreed if formally requested to do so by the EU.

He will travel to Malta on Monday to discuss the refugee crisis with officials in Valletta before meeting the 69-strong crew of the Naval Service vessel, LÉ Eithne, which has saved 3,000 refugees off the north African coast since May.

The Cork TD confirmed that the naval ship will be replaced on humanitarian duties off north Africa from late July by the LÉ Niamh.

That patrol ship will remain on station between Malta and Italy until September.

But Mr Coveney stressed that while Ireland is committed to accepting its fair share of the effort to deal with the crisis, other EU countries need to do so too.

"Ireland is a small country. Yes, we need to do our bit and we need to shoulder, as other European countries should in my view, a fair share of the burden here," he said.

"Yes, there are some (other EU countries) that are uncomfortable with that and that is a decision for them. I am not going to start commenting on (which) other countries. It is not exactly a mystery here."

However, the Catholic bishops' spokesman on migration has called on the Government to take more of the migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy.

Speaking to the Irish Independent following the launch of a new book on the work of the Irish Emigrant Chaplaincy in Britain, Bishop John Kirby praised the role of the LÉ Eithne in saving thousands of migrants' lives over the past month.

However, the bishop said the responsibility for accommodating and looking after these migrants shouldn't fall solely to Italy.

"We have to open our doors and we should be prepared to make people welcome, obviously in numbers appropriate to our size and our existing population. It would be unfair to expect Italy to carry the full burden," he said.

Dr Kirby also recalled that in the past Ireland acted as host to people from Hungary during the Hungarian revolution, and supported people from Vietnam in the mid 70s as well as people from Chile escaping the Pinochet regime.

The UK has insisted it will not accept major resettlement of refugees though London has dispatched the Royal Navy flagship, HMS Bulwark, to help in the rescue effort.

And Italy, Greece and Hungary warned they are already overwhelmed by refugee numbers.

Irish Independent

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