The Irish government has been called on to welcome refugees fleeing the deadly conflict in Syria. In the Irish parliament the Green Party has accused the international community of standing idly by as the humanitarian crisis in Syria explodes.
According to the Irish Independent the United Nations has calculated that the number of Syrian children forced to flee their devastated homeland has reached a million. It's believed that almost two million people have been driven out of the country to date.
Green Party environment spokesman Malcolm Noonan told parliament that Ireland could lead the way by taking displaced people from one of the surrounding camps in neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
'One in four people living in Lebanon is now a refugee, many are so desperate that they are fleeing into Iraq,' Noonan said.
'It is our view that if the Irish Government were to take the initiative by offering to accept a number of refugees on a program basis agreed with UNHCR, it would compel other EU states to follow suit and ease the humanitarian crisis in countries bordering Syria.'
The UN has reportedly demanded that Syria give chemical weapons experts access to rebel-held Damascus suburbs to determine if a chemical attack orchestrated by Bashar Assad's regime killed hundreds of people, including children.
A team of UN weapons inspectors is currently in Syria but it only has permission to visit specific locations. The Assad regime has dismissed as baseless claims that it was behind the latest incident.
In support of his suggestion Noonan said there have been successful settlement programs in Ireland, in particular the Sudanese resettlement programof 2007. 'Ireland has an incredible track record in humanitarian causes,' he said.
'The Green Party believes that to accept people fleeing this conflict during such a challenging time in our own country's history would send a message to the international community that we must act now to help alleviate suffering and that this is a tangible way in which we can begin to act.
'The crisis in Syria will not end any time soon and with over two million people displaced both internally and in surrounding countries, it is essential that the international community responds in a compassionate way. Ireland should show leadership in initiating a refugee settlement programme.'
The number of child refugees fleeing Syria has now topped the 1 million mark. UN agencies say three-quarters of those are under the age of 11.
UNICEF and the UNHCR have described the crisis as the largest humanitarian operation in history.
Peter Power, the Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland told the Independent: 'The reports from Syria of attacks on children in recent days are extremely disturbing and a tragic reminder that this crisis has gone on for too long and that children are suffering unimaginable horrors. This must stop.'
'One million children, the majority under 11 years of age, have now fled their homes. The children we meet at the borders urgently need water, food, shelter and medical care. Syrian children need help to regain a sense of normalcy and hope for the future before their childhood is lost forever. One way that UNICEF hopes to achieve this is by ensuring that every Syrian child can return to school in the coming weeks.' he added.