News

Sep 8, 2015

Bishop: Refugee/Migrant Crisis


Two statements from Bishop Brendan Leahy this week

Sept 8th: Government needs to put resources behind the generosity of people, including commitment on long term solution

Sept 2nd: Interagency and organisation response required if Ireland is to play a meaningful role in European refugee/migrant crisis - Bishop Leahy

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Bishop Leahy expresses admiration for reaction to refugee crisis

Government needs to put resources behind the generosity of people, including commitment on long term solution

Tuesday, 08 September 2015: Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has expressed his admiration for the incredible humanity and decency of Limerick people in response to the refugee crisis but stressed that every resource available must be put behind the short and long term solutions.

Responding to the huge groundswell of support pledged by Limerick people over recent days, Bishop Leahy said that the past week or more has been a reaffirmation of a great generosity of spirit.

The Limerick Bishop’s comments come as hundreds of people across the city and county have expressed their willingness to take refugees into their homes.

“The darkest hour is, indeed, before the dawn as the heart-wrenching images of Aylan Kurdi have been followed by one of the great consensus of humanity we have probably witnessed in Europe since the response to the Ethiopian Famine in 30 years ago this year.

“Locally many people and organisations, such as Doras Luimní, were already deeply engaged in this crisis before last week’s tragic images from Turkey.  But now there is striking evidence of a really heartfelt, widespread response across Ireland, Europe and, indeed, much further.

“Here in Limerick, the response has been wonderful, with literally hundreds if not thousands of putting their hands and volunteering to take families in.

“However, it is essential that Government and all the state agencies, in taking up on the generosity of the public, put the necessary resources behind it.  If anything, history has shown us time and time again that the fall-out from humanitarian crises is extremely complicated.

“Putting a roof over refugee heads and food on the table is a noble and hugely generous start but it is only a start.  These people have been through unimaginable travails and trauma in their homeland, have probably exhausted every last grain of energy and emotion in escaping that and getting here.  And with all that behind them, they now find themselves in a country that is utterly unfamiliar in every way.

“They will have immediate and ongoing healthcare requirements, both physical and emotional.  They will have educational needs for their children, they will want to work and pay their way, put food on their table, etc.

“They will also need reassurance that their new home is only stage one of their settlement in Ireland.  They will need to know that they can aspire to being self-sustainable and not dependent on hand-outs from others, albeit the most generous of others.  Recipient families, too, simply cannot have all of this laid on their shoulders, regardless of their levels of generosity.

“We need both immediate and long term solutions.  In the immediate term, the Government needs to provide a clear and practical framework as to how to channel the generosity that is so evident at the moment. Some kind of contractual commitment is needed for those who offer hospitality to migrants.  The Government has the necessary resources to offer this quickly and facilitate host families to make arrangements. There needs to be a binding commitment that, within six or twelve months of being taken in by householders, the refugees will be provided with a more long-term solution.

“But we do need to act very quickly as lives are on the line and it is going to get worse day by day if we don’t respond immediately.  We need to get these people in, give them the warmest of welcomes but then set about putting in placed a sustainable response and delight in watching them grow in their new nation.”

Ends

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Interagency and organisation response required if Ireland is to play a meaningful role in European refugee/migrant crisis - Bishop Leahy

Wednesday, 02 September 2015:

Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said that a major interagency and organisation response is required if Ireland is to have a meaningful impact in aiding the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war.

 

Commenting on the crisis Bishop Leahy said that the State, NGOs, the Church and many other organisations need to work together to find a solution to the ongoing emergency.  But, he says, a wider strategic review also needs to take place in relation to Ireland’s handling of asylum seekers generally, with facilities and conditions for refugees falling way below acceptable standards.

 

“Anyone listening to their conscience now can’t but feel challenged by what we are witnessing these days, weeks and months on our television screens and other social media networks.  Last month alone, according to reports, a record 107,500 migrants crossed the European borders.

 

“The word ‘migrant’ could as easily be replaced ‘refugee’ as over 60% have come from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan, nations in the grip of war and religious persecution.  In all reality we are probably looking at over 70% of people crossing into Europe eligible for asylum.

 

“Regardless, these people are seeking refuge for one reason or another; they are people in tremendous need and would not have set out on the hazardous journey unless there was an element of desperation about their situation.

 

“As Bishop I find myself asking what is my response or our response as a Diocese? I can’t but think of the heroic women and men of past generations in religious orders who set up projects to feed, teach and care for the poorest of the poor in our society. They responded to Jesus’ cry for help in their times.

 

“The time is on us now again to have such courage as we all have a role to play, locally and nationally in response to what is truly a tragic and shocking crisis.”

 

Bishop Leahy said we all need to look within, at what our own individual response has been to the crisis.  “We need to look at ourselves first and what we are doing and, for one, we certainly need to explore what more we can do as a diocese.  I would certainly be willing to play our part in a government led interagency forum, which I believe is a necessity right now so that we can all pool our resources and find the best and quickest way forward for a collective response.”

 

Bishop Leahy, however, said that the plight of asylum seekers already in Ireland is such that any response needs to be dramatically different.  “As well as tackling the current migrant crisis, we also have to acknowledge the need to address the plight of the asylum seekers in our midst already today,” he said.

 

“I’ve driven up to some of these centres and I am anything but reassured as to their suitability, as premises and locations.  We’ve all heard of some dramatic circumstances of life in these centres, of families under dreadful pressures, new babies being born, marriages breaking up, of a sense of hopelessness.

 

“Surely we can do more than this to welcome people to our country, not least people who have escaped horrific and life-threatening circumstances at home.”