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European elections 2019

Question: Should Ireland increase the number of asylum seekers and refugees it takes in annually?

There were mixed answers from candidates on whether Ireland should accept more refugees or not.

In our audit of the Dublin European election candidates, we asked candidates to answer questions on nine of the most pressing issues facing Ireland and Europe in the coming years. 

Should Ireland increase the number of asylum seekers and refugees it takes in annually to share the responsibility more with EU countries most impacted by the migrant crisis?

Mark Durkan 

Yes, I think Ireland has to be ready to support and assist asylum seekers and refugees whether they come to Ireland directly or come here via elsewhere into the EU. Again, as an MP in Westminster, refugees and asylum seekers was one of the issues I had campaigned on and worked with other MPs on.

So, it would be hypocritical to have been criticising and challenging in relation to the UK if I wasn’t also saying that Ireland needs to be ready to do more for refugees and asylum seekers who are trying to escape desperate circumstances and also to support our EU partners.

Frances Fitzgerald 

Yes. We in Ireland are a nation of emigrants and we know how it is to have to move for economic reasons, social reasons, or due to conflict. As Minister for Justice, I was happy to welcome asylum seekers and refugees on Ireland’s behalf, to help people who need it the most in their hour of need. When asylum seekers and refugees arrive in Ireland, we need to make sure that they are properly integrated and included into our communities and have the opportunity to prosper here.

In addition, we need more burden sharing in terms of migrant quotas. Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta have taken vast numbers of refugees and we need to make sure that a fairer system is built to make sure that safer and more legal routes are available for migrants.

People migrate for many reasons, including economic, social and political reasons. I want to ensure that a constructive and mutually beneficial partnership with Africa is put in place, ensuring that people are not under pressure to move from Africa for economic reasons.

Alice Mary Higgins  

Irish people have migrated in their hundreds of thousands, and we should have empathy and understanding of what it is to leave your home and the circumstances, including war and hunger, that drive people to that decision. The numbers seeking refuge in Ireland are relatively small and I do believe Ireland can support more of those who end up in Greece and Italy, as well as more programme refugees.

I also believe Ireland should resume search and rescue in the Mediterranean – the lives lost there and the human rights abuses committed in immigration camps in Libya are a stain on Europe’s international reputation. The EU should do more to address the conflict and climate change that help drive migration as well as creating ‘safe passage routes for people fleeing those situations. In the Seanad I supported legislation to restore rights taken away in 2013 and help recognised refugees reunite with dependent family members.

There is an international human right to seek asylum and the direct provision system is not an acceptable way to treat people, many of whom are trapped in limbo for many years.

Lastly, at a time when some across Europe are seeking to promote an opportunistic politics of division, I think we should be thoughtful in how we frame these issues and avoid using language like ‘burden’ in relation to fellow humans in desperate situations.

Ciarán Cuffe

Claire Behan Claire Behan

I think it is important that Europe shares the responsibility towards those who are fleeing their countries. The Dublin Agreement says that you need to seek asylum in the first place you’ve got to. That has put inordinate pressures on Italy, on Greece and on Malta. So I think it is important that the challenge is shared around other countries.

Look, I’m a councillor in the north inner city. Almost half the people who live there weren’t born in Ireland. It’s been great for Dublin. The range of choices in terms of different music, different foods, different cultures, different happenings is amazing. Yes, we need to control immigration but we do need to recognise that it can be a huge asset to countries as well.

Rita Harrold

I oppose the repugnant and racist “Fortress Europe” policy of the EU has meant that in 2018 an estimated 2,297 people died or went missing in the Mediterranean sea.  I stand for the democratic right to asylum for those fleeing wars, persecution, environmental destruction and poverty, and oppose all racist immigration controls that exist in Ireland.

I oppose all deportations and demand an end to Direct Provision.

Migrants and non-migrants in Ireland should not be pitted in competition with each other for access to affordable homes, decent jobs and access to public services. This is what elements in the political establishment want and flows from the present rigged economic system does.  This also creates a breeding ground for divisive and reactionary right-wing politics. There is ample wealth and resources to provide a decent life for everyone. The problem is the private ownership of wealth and the drive for profit that has facilitated an ever-increasing divide between the ‘masters of the universe’ billionaires, and the rest, the majority of whom are working people who work and create the wealth that exists.

It’s no surprise that the current government of the super-rich has licked up to tax avoiding corporate giants like Apple, who are in the Irish Times reported this week have an annual turnover of €119 billion, while showing no serious attempt to help refugees, victims of imperialist war and environmental destruction that corporations profit from. We stand for the building of a movement to ensure that everyone from Irish workers, to migrant workers, to the traveller community, to refugees have homes, jobs and services. Fundamentally this means breaking with the capitalist market and system.

Lynn Boylan

We are dealing with a political crisis not a refugee crisis. The Irish government should focus on actually delivering what they committed to in terms of numbers of refugees to be resettled and relocated in Ireland.

Barry Andrews

Yes, the Dublin Convention hasn’t worked, especially since 2015.

The EU needs a responsive and compassionate policy on asylum seekers and refugees that recognises the integrity of its borders.

A humane, collective EU wide asylum process should include an expedited mechanism to process applications in every state. I believe all states, including Ireland, should play our part in providing assistance and refuge to those fleeing conflict, climate change and extreme poverty.

Clare Daly

Yes, absolutely. In relative terms Ireland receives a very small number of asylum seekers annually, and we recognise even fewer. Ireland received around 0.6% of all new asylum claims in the EU in 2018. We’re a wealthy state, we can do more. We must also stop facilitating US warplanes through Shannon to go and fight in wars that drive people out of their homes in the first place.

Alex White

Yes. At present thousands of people fleeing war, poverty and persecution in Syria and Iraq live a very precarious life in camps and temporary accommodation in Southern Europe. That can’t continue. Ireland needs to play its part in providing these people with a secure, safe haven from war.

From my engagement with the Syrian and Iraqi communities the vast majority want to return home to help rebuild their country when some degree of stability returns.  We should give these people shelter and security in the meantime.

Of course some families will legally stay in Ireland, contribute to our economy, our cultural life and our communities. I welcome this also.

Mark Mullen

mark mullan for europe

Yes, I am in favour of increasing the number of refugees resettled in Ireland through the Irish Refugee Protection Program. I think that we can also increase our acceptance quota of asylum seekers. I would support the gradual phasing out of direct provision with the adoption of practical solutions.

Given our neutrality and history, Ireland should be seen globally as a beacon of hope for refugees fleeing conflict in search of protection. We should see refugees as contributing a great deal to our society. Their contribution should be welcomed and valued.

Gary Gannon

Yes. I believe Ireland is not currently taking in its fair share of asylum seekers and refugees, with our population at 2.1 per 1,000 residents, which is among the lowest in Europe and a small fraction of many of our European neighbours.

But I believe need to do this not only because of our moral obligation as a nation with a strong emigrant tradition, but also because of the economic, social and cultural benefits which migrant communities bring to our capital and country.

Kathleen McNamee
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