The Irish Government expected 4,000 refugees to be resettled here as the war in Syria displaces millions of people. However, less than 400 refugees will be resettled by the end of 2016.
So far the issues of refugees have not caused too many problems for the Irish government. In 2015 we were busy congratulating ourselves for the result of the marriage equality referendum to deal with the refugee crises. 2016 has not been much more productive with most of the year spent forming a government and passing the budget and dealing with the promised disasters following Brexit. Refugees remain at the back of the line.
The geography of Ireland means we do not have refugees washing up on our shores and this has allowed us to largely ignore the situation which is dominating politics across mainland Europe.
Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban has been roundly criticised for saying all refugees were ‘a public security risk’. Mr Orban has also overseen the construction of borders to prevent refugees passing into Hungary from Greece.
Angela Merkel has accepted vast numbers of refugees in Germany but yet support for her and her party is declining. So Ireland is not the only country fumbling on this issue. But that shouldn’t excuse us, this week we heard little or no mention of budgetary strategy for tackling the refugee crises or clearing the already backlogged direct provisions system which houses asylum seekers already in Ireland.
So apart from the odd tweet and maybe changing our profile pictures on Facebook what are we doing to help? Irish navy vessels Le Samuel Beckett, Le James Joyce and others have saved thousands of lives on rescue missions as people try to cross the Mediterranean on poorly built boats and rafts.
Aid is difficult to deliver and helping those inside Syria is admittedly difficult given the roles of Russia and the US but it is within the reach of this Irish Government to help those who have already taken the extremely difficult journey away from their homes in hope of reaching ours.