Saturday 12 September 2015


Refugees or economic migrants...?

I love the Irish people! Your compassion and love for your fellow human beings proved so strong and fast to flow, you beat me to my deadline date. I was planning to write about the refugee crisis, but I have to file each week’s copy by Monday, and last Sunday on RTE news there was one of the demonstrators on the streets of Dublin, showing the colour of her Irish compassion, saying how she remembered the history of her own people.

That’s when I knew I was too late, but never have I been so delighted to be out of date. I’d been thinking about those horrific famine ships, loaded with the haggard starving masses, leaving Ireland to find a better life elsewhere. When your starving forebears fled their blighted bare fields, did they go to the ships as refugees or economic migrants hoping for a better life with more opportunity in America?

When you watch the huddled masses at European borders on the TV news, can you tell which is a refugee and which a migrant? For a reason that completely escapes me, some of you out there feel that people fleeing a war zone are important, while others searching for a better life are irrelevant.

Please, I beg you, do not waste a second of your lives pondering such a quandary, because nobody leaves the security of their home, their family, their culture and country to strap themselves to trucks, crowd their kids onto lethal inflatable dinghies or walk hundreds upon hundreds of painful miles unless the alternative is to die a miserable death.

What we do need to think of is the dignity of human beings, not the difference between them. Back in England and here in Ireland I often hear Daily Mail readers muttering about  how “...we’re only a small island.”

Yes indeed, and as an Englishman living in Ireland, I have often been held culpable for the horrors of the famine, when this country’s population fell from 8.2 million to 4 million.

There is room here. One of the things I adore about Ireland is that, more than any other European country I’ve visited, we have so much empty space. From vacant lots in city centres to the thousands of acres of unused farmland, I love it all, yet would happily deprive myself of that joy if the loss of it gave homes to desperate human beings.

Despite what politicians and small-minded fools often say, there is room in Europe for all of them. In fact, although we hear precious little about it, right now there is a depopulation crisis going on in several European countries. Portugal, Spain, Italy and Germany are experiencing massive falls in birth rates, whereby if such trends were to continue, populations would fall by 40% within 40 years.

For once I have sympathy for politicians. The only reason they legislate to limit immigration is because they have to in order to win elections. In private they understand that economic success is completely reliant on a large population of migrant workers. In public they have to posture to appease the bigots who might reject them.

The numbers speak for themselves. In the UK the Office of Budget Responsibility recently reported that net inward migration fuels growth for the entire population. They show that there are 239,000 more non-UK nationals presently holding down jobs in Britain compared to last year, while in the same period the number of UK nationals in work rose by 375,000.

So let’s not hear any more nonsense about ‘them’ taking ‘our’ jobs. Without immigrants’ willingness to work long hours for poor pay, none of us would be able to enjoy our standards of living. Shame on the UK, Ireland and Denmark for officially opting out of their EU responsibilities to take their fair share of refugees.

Anyway, there’s no huge queue knocking at Irish gates. Very few people want to be shackled to the confines of Direct Provision, living in over-crowded hostels for years, paid a paltry €19 a week, forbidden to cook for their own children.

Every time you hear political leaders talking about the evil human traffickers, be aware they are blaming the metal in the bullet rather than the man who fired the gun. Doubtless the traffickers are evil, but they are responding to market forces. What we must do is take some blame ourselves.

If the refugees come from countries where there were Arab Spring revolutions, then we owe them sanctuary as we encouraged their revolutions.

If they come from either French, British, Spanish or Dutch ex-colonial countries then we owe them a living. 

If they come from Iraq, Syria or any other countries that European forces have bombed then we owe them a peaceful haven.   

All power to those wonderful Irish people who have already acted. The Ireland-Calais Refugee Solidarity Group is collecting cash, and all manner of supplies which will be delivered in an aid convoy to Calais. If you live in Galway and want to help, contact Eimear on 085-2780227.

Let's turn this terrible tragedy into an opportunity to show the wonder of humanity.

Let's open our hearts and doors to the poor, the needy, the war weary.

Let's ignore those leaders who claim to have our best interests at heart. They don't. Our best interest is served by doing unto others as we would be done to ourselves.

Let’s embrace the needs of these people in a wretched position. 
To paraphrase an English war leader: 

We shall meet them on the beaches. 
We shall greet them on the landing grounds. 
We shall never surrender our humanity!

©Charlie Adley

No comments: