Amid unspeakable horror, our navy has been a beacon of moral courage and real humanity
After five years of war, it's far too easy for the daily tragedies and atrocities in Syria and in the seas off Libya to be parked out of sight and out of mind. This week, however, the scale of the endgame in the Syrian war loomed large on our TV screens with reports as Syrian and Russian forces closed in on the remaining opposition forces in eastern Aleppo. With tens of thousands of unfortunate civilians trapped in the crossfire, their prospects for survival are bleak and there are UN warnings of massacres and war crimes on all sides.
This is a war without victories and with inhumanity and casualties beyond comprehension. Those who stayed are being bombed, while the millions who fled in search of safety are dispersed far and wide across neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Then they are herded by smugglers into leaky boats at considerable expense; thousands have drowned in the seas. Thousands of others have mercifully been picked up by rescue missions, including by Irish Defence Forces, and brought to the relative safety of Europe. Once in Europe, there has been confusion, bureaucracy and pass the parcel as countries decide how to manage the arrival of so many so quickly.
We in Ireland have been at times dismayed by the inadequacy of the EU's official response to this mass migration challenge. Our own Government promised in September 2015 to take our share of an allocation of Syrian refugees stated to be 4,000. Because of inefficiencies in Greece and Italy in managing and registering the refugees for onward relocation, only a fraction pledged to be accepted by receiving countries like Ireland have materialised.