You know a general election is imminent when our politicians start talking about tax cuts and slipping into auction politics mode. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean Sea has become a grave for 2,500 people this year and more than 650,000 people will attempt to enter Europe in 2015, all fleeing persecution and hardship in their home countries. It’s called Europe’s migrant crisis, and hopefully, you’ve already heard of it.
Fine Gael’s recent press release on the migrant crisis refers to the need to take into account these refugees “wider suitability” before relocating them to Ireland. I get chills down my spine at the thought of our government play judge and juror regarding the “suitability” of these people. Who exactly would be suitable enough for them? Is this Fine Gael's hidden way of reassuring the xenophobes that nothing will change?
Are we too busy living in our own private Idaho?
As General Election 2016 approaches, will we ask our candidates what they plan to do about the migrant crisis? Or will we instead demand that our politicians fix a pothole , get our trees trimmed, or do something about that dog poo on the footpath? Excuse my sarcasm, but I’ve done enough canvassing to become a bit cynical about what the doorstep issues might be for General Election 2016.
It was during all the door-knocking as a Local Election candidate that I realised just how much racism actually exists in Ireland. Without fail, one in ten residents in leafy Shankill-Killiney told me, in all seriousness, that our country’s economic collapse was due to the number of immigrants or Muslims in the country – taking away jobs from the good Irish, causing anti-social behaviour, pressuring our education, housing & health systems, etc.
I tried to put that issue behind me, arguing that people’s tendency to discriminate against other nationalities has nothing to do with my professional interest to halt climate change. But, today I’m reminded again how everything is connected – Every country that these refugees are fleeing has suffered the effects of climate change. The Syrian war has even been directly linked to climate change as one of the factors that sparked the conflict. When I saw those images of migrant children washed up on the beach, my first reaction was “I contributed to their deaths”.
It’s my own privileged, emission-producing lifestyle that has antagonised the hardship these refugees faced in their own countries. Yet, our contribution to the migrant crisis is to take in 1,120 of the 60,000 current refugees over the next two years (0.024% of our population), while Germany will take over 10,000 (equivalent to 1pc of the German population). And once these refugees enter our country, they are treated like prisoners under the current asylum process.
Someone should do something....
We turned our backs on the Jews in World War II and have expressed regret for it. Will we let history repeat itself or will we make up for our inaction in the past?
I’ve been talking about the migrant crisis with a number of concerned friends, wondering what we as ordinary citizens could do to make a difference to this crisis. Of course, there are a number of great efforts being made to provide migrants with clothes, sleeping bags, etc. and there is a petition you can sign to ask the government to agree to house more migrants, but nothing goes further than directly asking your own TD what they plan to do about an issue. As your representative, whose salary is paid through your taxes, they are obliged to respond to you. Just by bringing the issue to their attention, you’ve demonstrated that this is an issue that could cost them a vote.
More information on the Green Party's call for increased government action on the migrant crisis can be found here.