Refugees from Syria are hoping against hope for a helping hand from other countries, the former president of Ireland has said, as she recalled her own experience fleeing conflict at the beginning of the Troubles.
Mary McAleese, who said she had been “literally a refugee on my own island”, noted that the public is keen to talk about people, not numbers, when it comes to dealing with the crisis.
The image of a young Syrian boy washed ashore in Turkey earlier this week sparked outrage and calls for governments throughout Europe to do more.
Mrs McAleese who, with her family, had leave their home in Ardoyne, Belfast in 1969, said people in Ireland, Britain and across Europe are eager to help.
“The ordinary men, women and children on the street have said ‘actually, do you know what? We have to do something. We cannot just respond by talking about numbers or bureaucracies or structures. We have to talk about this human being to human being,’” she told an audience at St Mary’s University in London.