Ireland debates response to Syrian refugee crisis

Countries around the world have started to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, with governments trying to scurry to determine how many refugees they can accept and what type of services can be provided. Ireland is no different, though there is some internal debate over just how many refugees the country may be willing to take in.

Syrian refugees in Iraq. Photo taken by European Commission DG ECHO.
Syrian refugees in Iraq. Photo taken by European Commission DG ECHO.

Four years after civil war broke out in Syria, the country and its population has suffered tremendously. Over 50% of Syrians are displaced, including 4 million refugees outside the country and another almost 13 million needing humanitarian aid inside Syria. Europe is beginning to feel the pressure as refugees make their way out of Turkey and other countries surrounding Syria, due to the lack of funds and conditions of refugees camps, sending the EU in a scramble to determine policies and establish protocol for the wave of Syrian refugees.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo by European People's Party.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo by European People’s Party.

There has been quite a mix of confusing reports coming from stakeholders in the Irish government regarding how many refugees the country is willing to accept. Numbers have ranged from 1,800, which Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald put forth, to talk of much higher numbers from Joan Burton, Ireland’s deputy prime minister (in a position called the Tánaiste). She has indicated that the number could reach or even exceed 5,000. Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has assured the public however that there is not a division amongst the politicians, and is planning on holding a special Cabinet meeting this week in order to make decisions regarding the numbers and level of support that Ireland will provide.

The Irish public has been extremely supportive of providing a safe haven for the Syrian refugees, including creating an online petition requesting the government to accept higher numbers of refugees. According to RTÉ, that petition has reached 35,000 signatures, with 12,000 Irish citizens offering to house refugees in their own homes. The Pope has also issued an appeal to Catholics across Europe, asking every parish and community to take in at least one family of refugees.

Photo by Mustafa Khayat
Photo by Mustafa Khayat.

Europe is not the only place feeling pressure regarding increasing numbers of refugees. The United States came under fire this week for only taking in 1,500 Syrian refugees over the past 4 years, and international organizations have begun publicly ridiculing the U.S. government for their lack of acceptance, and slow process for refugees from Syria. These same organizations are asking the U.S. to take in upwards of 70,000 refugees to aid in the crisis, similar to numbers the German government has announced.

Concerned about the refugee crisis and wondering what you can do to help? No matter where you are located there are plenty of organizations that would benefit from your support. In the U.S. and wondering how to help out with the crisis in Europe? Consider donating or taking part in one of these great initiatives. If located in Ireland, here’s a great list of 5 things you can do to make a difference for the refugees within Ireland.

After all, when it boils down to it, we are all humans and should lend a hand to those in need.