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Nobody should be put in harm’s way if we are in a position to offer sanctuary

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A shortage of State-provided accommodation meant people fleeing Ukraine had to spend the night in the old Dublin Airport terminal building. Photo: Gareth Chaney

A shortage of State-provided accommodation meant people fleeing Ukraine had to spend the night in the old Dublin Airport terminal building. Photo: Gareth Chaney

A shortage of State-provided accommodation meant people fleeing Ukraine had to spend the night in the old Dublin Airport terminal building. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Laundry, they say, is the only thing that should be separated by colour. Sadly when you look at global demarcation lines, you cannot hide the fact the haves, and have-nots, are so easily distinguished in black and white terms.

And never more so than when looking at international flashpoints. There are currently two billion people caught up in conflicts around the world.

Those driven from their countries by war, drought or extreme poverty have no choice but to find somewhere safe to survive.

Those forced to flee from the missiles in Ukraine, also had to escape the carnage. Thus you can appreciate the discernable discomfort at the Government’s decision to restrict the number of refugees coming to Ireland.

Defending it, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was “wise”, given the unprecedented circumstances.

“Potentially we would have four to five times the number of people seeking international protection this year compared to pre-pandemic times,” he said.

Some 40,000 Ukrainian refugees had arrived since February, he added.

Even so, the decision to suspend the Council of Europe Agreement on visa waivers for refugees was a difficult one. The pact allows refugees to travel to other signatory countries: “without a visa or prior clearance if the purpose of the journey is solely for a visit of a maximum of three months.”

Mr Martin’s pledge that the suspension “won’t be forever” must be taken as his word.

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Few countries have a better understanding of the pain of having to leave one’s homeland than our own.

The relief we have seen in the eyes of Ukrainian children holding the hands of their mothers after touchdown in Dublin was very real.

What they saw on their journeys to get here may stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Hopefully something of the welcome they receive will also remain.

The fact that we have run out of accommodation and many have had to sleep for days in terminals, speaks to the pressure on accommodation.

Yet nobody should be put in harm’s way so long as we can offer secure sanctuary.

If the system is being abused, this needs to be addressed urgently.

But legitimate cases must not suffer or be punished because the requisite checks are not in place.

We cannot know the life trajectories of all who come to our shores.

However, when it comes to helping those in dire need, or in the path of danger, it ought be our privilege to help; providing we can.

As the poet Rumi put it: “He who abides far away from his home, Is ever longing for the day he shall return.”

Mr Martin is correct – the war has put exceptional pressures on our system and on systems across Europe.

It may be a strain, but when people are down, as the saying goes: ‘There is no better exercise for the heart than lifting people up’.


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