Monday 20 November 2017

For the first time since I left office, I wish I was back in a position to help

A migrant helps his daughter walk on the railway track after crossing the Serbian-Hungarian border near Roszke, in southern Hungary.
Photo: Matthias Schrader/AP
A migrant helps his daughter walk on the railway track after crossing the Serbian-Hungarian border near Roszke, in southern Hungary. Photo: Matthias Schrader/AP
Liz O'Donnell

Liz O'Donnell

The Irish Government decision this week to receive 4,000 refugees over a two-year period in response to the escalating refugee crisis is to be welcomed. The eventual figure may exceed that, given the right to family reunification. Although Ireland has played an important role in the sea rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean, there was a widespread view that our own history of mass migration, as well as our humanitarian track record with poor countries, demanded a more generous response.

Inevitably, there will be concerns by some about the cost and operational challenges involved, but civilised and developed European countries cannot shirk responsibility to respond to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. As Angela Merkel has said, the crisis is a test of the capacity of the European Union to really work together on the basis of shared values.

This remarkable exodus from Syria - in particular - and Afghanistan is an inevitable result of war. In the case of Syria, the brutal civil war shows no sign of abating, propelling millions of people into neighbouring countries, primarily Turkey, Lebanon Jordan and Pakistan. Now these countries, buckling under the strain of hosting millions of Syrian refugees, are witnessing others moving on to find a place of safety in Europe. We are witnessing a humanitarian phenomenon not experienced since World War Two; mass movements of desperate, displaced people walking across European borders seeking help and at constant risk of exploitation and ill-treatment.

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