German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized Ireland as well as Denmark and Britain for not taking more refugees from Syria given the wealth of the three countries. "Some countries, one has to say, are not taking part in the common European asylum policy like the UK, Ireland and Denmark," she said.
Close to 200,000 refugees have been making the treacherous passage to Europe to seek asylum. Ireland has now come under pressure – from both Merkel, the European Commission and even members of its own populace – to accept more refugees.
The flight of thousands from countries like Syria, across the Mediterranean and into Europe, has captured international attention in recent months, intensifying this week as the image of a three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose drowned body washed up on the coast of Turkey, crossed the globe.
Next week in Strasbourg, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will unveil the EC’s plan to re-locate the 120,000 additional refugees across Europe. This is a vast increase from the initial 32,000 migrants the EU agreed to accept in June.
In light of this increase, Ireland is under pressure to take in more of the refugee population than the number the government initially agreed to – 600.
“Ireland can cope with more than we’ve already opted for, even though we’re outside the [Schengen] protocol,” Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Irish Times during a conference in Lyons, France.
Ireland’s Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerand has suggested that Ireland could offer relief to up to three times that number – bringing the total to 1,800.
When asked about this, Kenny said “If you multiply from the 40,000 originally determined to now over 100,000, the figure may be more.”
A more definite number will be established after Minister Fitzgerald meets with the EC in Brussels on September 14.
The Irish leader also expressed his disagreement with the views of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who, earlier this week, published a column claiming his country’s “Christian origins” had come under attack by Muslim refugees.
“One of the founding principles of the European Union is the freedom of movement of people, and obviously we respect that completely. That movement has to be irrespective of color or creed… I disagree with the emphasis that Viktor Orban has put on that,” he said.
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins has called upon the Irish people to remember the help from around the world that was offered to the Irish during times of great strife – from the Great Hunger in the 1840s, to the economic recession.
“We have to decide at certain times in our life to do what is right and what is right is to come to the assistance of those who, like our own ancestors, were being lost in the sea of the Atlantic three generations ago,” he said.
After all the ships that sailed from Ireland in hope of a better life, the least we can do is return the favour. #refugeeswelcome— Leanne Woodfull (@LeanneWoodfull) September 2, 2015
“I think it is to the credit of these great people that even though they have taken a great hit as a result of an imposed economic paradigm,” he said. “They are the people who will come forward first and say come and share with us at least shelter, some security and we will be of assistance.
“That is the Irish way at its best.”
In agreement with Higgins is Live Aid founder and Boomtown Rats front man Bob Geldof, who, ahead of a concert in his native Ireland this weekend, announced that he and his wife are offering to take in four Syrian refugee families.
“I can’t stand what is happening, I cannot stand what it does to us,” he told RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster. “The bollocks we talk about our values is complete nonsense, once it comes home to roost we deny those values, we betray ourselves but those values are correct and it happens time and time and time again. We are better than this.
“Late last night I couldn’t get my head around this... I started banging out this piece and I said ‘ok, let’s take on now, let’s put our money where our mouth is’. So me and Jan would be prepared to take three families immediately in our place in Kent and a family in our flat in London and put them up until such a time as they can get going and get a purchase on the future.”
There are currently a number of online petitions in Ireland calling upon the government to accept more refugees – with one set up by a group called Uplift – People Powered Change totaling close to 40,000 signatures.
A protest of over 3,500 people is also planned for the Irish capital this weekend.
The head of the Irish Refugee Council has said Ireland could be capable of taking in as many as 40,000 refugees.
“The past experience is that countries will not measure up if they’re asked to do so purely voluntarily, so it may well be that they’re going to have to work out a formula here to say what numbers are appropriate for each individual country,” Sue Conlan told the Irish Mirror.
“Lebanon has the same population as Ireland but the geographical size is half of Munster.
"They have taken in 1.2 million Syrians. We could take more. It’s difficult to say the figure but if you were looking at the equivalent of what Germany has committed – 800,000 – you would be looking at about 40,000.”
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