Dáil debates

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Calais Migrant Camp: Statements


10:00 pm

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

The Green Party also supports the contents of that motion in looking for the House to accept, among other things, 200 unaccompanied minors from the Calais camp as a signal of our intent. I hope that the Minister, who, as someone said previously, I do not think are without compassion or concern for this issue, will be able to agree and see that motion put into action next week. There have been may words spoken tonight, but I want to refer to the words of someone I have listened to on the migration issue for years. He is not a likely character for some people on the Government side of the House. Mr. Peter Sutherland, as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has been consistent, articulate, prescient and ahead of most people here in recognising that what is happening is completely untoward, improper, immoral, unjust or whatever words one might use. Only last month, he said, "The camp in Calais is a truly dreadful place. It is an indictment of society that it exists". He speaks a lot of sense on the need for a proactive approach in managing this migrant crisis. Similarly, in fairness to Pope Francis, his first act as a pontiff was to head to the island of Lampedusa. His simple message was, "Before they are numbers, these people are human beings". His reminder of that simple story of a Samaritan stopping on his way resonates with Irish people. It belongs to all people of all religious views and none. It is something that we hold to be true.

Ireland is a wealthy country. Sometimes, we rightly do ourselves down in this House in saying that we are not allocating money in certain ways and that we could be wealthier. However, the truth is that Ireland is one of the top ten wealthiest and most advanced countries in the world according the UN human development index. Our wealth is largely based on the fact that we are international in our trade and overall approach. It behoves us more than others because of that to be generous, international and global in our thinking. We must think in a one-world way and, yes, step in where there are children who are unaccompanied and do not have a home. We must say that we will provide it here.

Ireland is a relatively safe country. Again, for all our misgivings and our questions about ourselves, we have an unarmed police force and a low murder rate. While we have crime and pockets of deep deprivation that we need to tackle, the truth is that Ireland is one of the safest places in the world. For that reason, it behoves us to take in young children without a home.

Ireland is a welcoming country. Talk to people who come here. It is true. When one is away for a while and returns, one recognises that. It behoves us to show a welcome to these people, particularly because those who tend to be in the refugee camps come from cultures in which they are also welcoming of people into their homes. It is their first instinct and obligation. Friends of mine who have been out in refugee camps meet people whose homes are often a mere tent or the end of a shack. Even in those circumstances, they welcome people in and treat them with hospitality. Even if it is a simple cup of tea and a seat on the edge of a crate, they have a tradition and culture of welcoming which we need to reciprocate.

We must do this in a way that holds the confidence of the people. We cannot do it in a chaotic way. As Mr. Peter Sutherland says, planning and being generous in advance is so much better than reacting after the fact, because that is how we lose the confidence of our people. We need to hold and maintain the confidence of our people in our ability to manage the arrival of these people and to provide a safe home for them, in order that they can add to that home and to society here.

For that reason we need to accept the motion that has been drafted and to show a proactive approach in how we deal with the issue.

The signing in New York last year of the sustainable development goals was a significant development. They are a manifesto for a sustainable future. What is important about them is that they apply to the north as well as the south, which is so clearly true from my own party’s perspective in that they bring ecological sustainability and social justice together. The 15 goals address gender issues, education and water and provide a combined approach. They bring a global approach and that is the way for us to go. By applying that approach it would not only show a responsibility from the north to the south but it would also create a society here where we can bring in people. We must start planning for being an island of 10 million people, including bringing people in as refugees in scale, not just 200 people, but a much larger number and managing it.

I agree with what Deputy Wallace and others said, that we must stop and have no more wars for oil because so many of the people who are refugees are coming because of the long-term addiction to fossil fuels and the geopolitical arrangements we have put in place to protect the oil supply. We must start a war on climate because many people are coming from Eritrea, Sudan, the Middle East and other areas where climate refugees will become the biggest issue and one we must manage and cannot ignore. It was 53° Celsius in Baghdad on a regular basis this summer. That is barely habitable. Unless we start that war all of our efforts here will be to no avail because we will not be addressing the root cause of the problem.

I have good friends here who are refugees and they always say the same thing when I talk to them about their experience. They ask me if I think they wanted to leave their own home, their Eden. We must protect the Eden in their home and in ours as the ultimate long-term response, in addition to taking people in here. I hope we can reach agreement next week. I commend the Irish volunteers and others who are on the front line doing brilliant work. I also commend those who drafted the motion which prompted tonight’s debate and I look forward to it, hopefully, being agreed next week.


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