Irish Republican News · November 5, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Ireland urged to take in refugee children


Several hundred people gathered outside the Dublin parliament on Wednesday night for a candlelit vigil calling for the 26 County state to house refugee children from the conflict in the Middle East who have so far been refused permission to enter Britain.

On Wednesday morning French authorities began moving 1,500 unaccompanied minors from a temporary centre next to the now demolished Calais “Jungle” near the entrance to the cross-channel tunnel to England.

As a proposal to bring 200 of them to Ireland was being debated with cross-party support, a vigil was held with candles and posters. Sr Stansilaus Kennedy called on the Government to commit to taking 200 children from Calais.

“We are not asking 200 children come today or tomorrow, we are asking for the commitment to be made. It is unconscionable that we have 1,500 unaccompanied children abandoned on our shores, in our neighbourhood,” she said.

“We can make our decision and choose to do something about it. It ‘s about will of civil society and organisations but for the government to make the decision and take action.”

An estimated 1,400 unaccompanied children, some as young as six, had gathered at the makeshift migrant camp known as the “Jungle” on the outskirts of the French port town.

Calls to bring 200 of them here, spearheaded by the Not On Our Watch campaign, are being supported by a growing number of organisations and church bodies, including the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW), the Irish Refugee Council, the Methodist Church, as well as the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

President Michael D Higgins pointed out on Tuesday that the prejudice used to depict Europe’s current migrant crisis was once applied to survivors of the Great Famine in Ireland. Mr Higgins said that contemporary references to “swarms” of migrants had resonances with a similar negative depiction on the Irish western seaboard in the mid-19th century.

Attention to their plight has also been drawn by English singer Lily Allen, who apologised “on behalf of my country” after seeing the terrible conditions refugee children have endured at the Calais camp.

She broke down in tears at one point during a meeting with a 13-year-old boy from Afghanistan. During their meeting, Allen told him: “It just seems that at three different intervals in this young boy’s life, the English in particular have put you in danger.

“We’ve bombed your country, put you in the hands of the Taliban and now put you in danger of risking your life to get into our country. I apologise on behalf of my country. I’m sorry for what we have put you through.”

But speaking in the Dail, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said there was no evidence that Irish assistance was needed.

“A defining characteristic of the refugees who have gathered in Calais, including unaccompanied minors, has been their very strong desire to go to the UK as their ultimate destination,” she said.

Sinn Fein TD Kathleen Funchion said that the contributions from three Ministers -- the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Foreign Affairs -- were “pitiful”.

“There was cross party support on this issue,” she said.

“The government has previously stated that their policy is to prioritise women and children in the number of refugees Ireland is to take. The fact that we now have an opportunity to immediately help 200 who are at high risk but won’t, is a direct contradiction of that pledge.

“These Ministers, having heard to call from all parties and the public, need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to take action now, in the name of the Irish people.”

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© 2016 Irish Republican News