Migration, managed effectively, is a win-win process for everyone involved. With the movement of people comes new ideas, skills and viewpoints which can enrich and enhance our society. In today’s world, conflict is the biggest driver of current migration movements. The result of this conflict is that women, children and men are forced to flee their homes in search of safety from persecution, violence and danger. It is crucial that we make clear to our Government and the international community that Ireland prioritises humanity and compassion and that we want to play our part to support those who are forced to leave their homes.
In 2015 Ireland committed to accepting 4,000 refugees as part of Europe’s response to the migration crisis, which has seen over 500,000 men, women and children arrive to the shores of Europe in the last 18 months alone. More than 5,000 people died on the waters of the Mediterranean Sea in 2016: this potentially deadly journey is not one anyone would take lightly and most who make it to Europe will have suffered traumatic experiences.
However, with a deadline of autumn 2017, less than half the expected 4,000 people have arrived to Ireland. Those who have arrived are being sent to towns across Ireland, where a new journey is beginning. Without a comprehensive integration strategy, including humanitarian infrastructure and support to the local communities, we cannot be sure that everyone is can access the support they need to live lives of dignity.
Following an initial response which advocated for an improved State response and commitment to support anyone arriving into Ireland through our support services, in 2015 and again in 2016 Immigrant Council staff travelled directly to camps in France and Greece. We assessed the environments, provided information about resettling in Ireland and supported research efforts to examine the experiences of women through their treacherous journeys and while living in the camps.
We were part of a coalition of civil society groups which successfully advocated for a Government commitment to accept 200 unaccompanied minors from France, recognising the high number of lone children at risk of exploitation or trafficking. Unfortunately, progress in welcoming the young people onto Irish soil has been slow. We are continuing to call for movement under both this commitment and the parallel commitment to accept 4,000 people under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.
These actions are linked to our activities around integration and anti-racism; we must ensure that as people arrive in Ireland they come to a welcoming country, providing them with the space to heal and grow.
We also call on the Government to use its voice within Europe and further abroad to advocate for improved and expanded safe, legal routes for people fleeing persecution and war. Part and parcel of this mission is to maintain our humanitarian presence in Mediterranean rescue missions, promote high standards in refugee camps and to peacefully resolve the international conflicts which are at the core of this issue.
Interviewed said going home wasn’t an option for them.