Tuesday 23 January 2018

President says immigration concerns are the result of austerity

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

PEOPLE are “flying into a panic” about the prospect of just over one million refugees being resettled in Europe because of drops in income and high youth unemployment arising from austerity policies, President Michael D Higgins has said.

But the Government has an “obligation” to offer prospects,

including educational opportunities, to refugees fleeing conflict zones, including Syria, and must begin talking to the people who elected them to office.

The President said that a mindset of “receiving the stranger” needed to be fostered. He continued: “Not only in Ireland, but even in relation to the EU, the fact that people are flying into a panic about 1.3 million coming to an area of over 500 million tells you a lot.

“There are internal factors as well, including the consequences of austerity in Europe, while 40pc of people on the median income have experienced a drop.

“If you take Greece, youth

unemployment is at 51pc. In Italy, it’s 26pc. Youth unemployment is affecting attitudes. But in the developing countries, two-thirds are not in study or employment.

“Both Ireland and the EU need to prepare people in terms of what’s coming. You need to be able to look after people for education and offer prospects and so forth. When you think about what other countries have done, you need to be able to anticipate (problem) areas. You don’t denounce the number (of people).”


Ireland has pledged to accept 4,000 people from the Syrian conflict zone, of whom some 350 are expected here this year.

The number arriving is short of what was expected, in part because of the low numbers applying for asylum in Italy and Greece, which is a prerequisite for entry to the relocation programme.

Instead, many migrants fleeing conflict zones continue their journey to northern Europe.

The President said that “fear and fatalism” were characteristics of the response to the crisis and that there was a role for the Government in addressing that.

He added: “There’s a set of institutional preparations you need to put in place. What that requires is the creation of a mind of ‘receiving the stranger’ in the different countries of Europe. Governments have responsibilities to not just talk to each other, but to the people who put them into government as well.”

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