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.”