Director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, heavily criticised the European Union (EU) for its failure to put forth an adequate response to combat the “predictable” refugee crisis.
“In my view the crisis as it exists for refugees and for the EU, is one that is being created by the EU,” O’Gorman told the DCU International Relations Society last Wednesday. He said that while the EU “isn’t responsible directly for many of the reasons why people are fleeing those countries… what the EU has done over the past four years is to not respond to a predictable crisis.”
The language that has dominated the discussion on this issue is very telling according to the human rights organisation Director.
“The EU referred to this as a ‘migrant-crisis’, I think that’s really interesting because it reveals the EU’s concern in this. For them, this was a concern of migrants that were creating a crisis for the EU by coming here so it was a crisis for the EU, not a crisis for those who were seeking international protection. Since we’ve seen huge public concern, that language has shifted significantly over the last three months, we now call it a refugee crisis,” O’Gorman said.
He went on to say, “there are about 60 million displaced people in the world today and just under 20 million of those are formally recognised as refugees. We have the largest refugee crisis since the second world war. The EU’s response has been to throw up it’s walls and keep people out.”
O’Gorman condemned the EU’s decision to cease funding ‘Mare Nostrum’, a search and rescue mission by the Italian Navy that saved 150,000 lives in 2013 in the Mediterranean where a plethora of migrants lose their lives trying to find safe passage. The United Nations (UN) must too take a degree of responsibility for this unprecedented humanitarian crisis according to O’Gorman.
The prominent human rights activist recounted his recent trip to Lebanon which has seen a huge migration of Syrian refugees. He explained that in Lebanon it is now almost impossible for anyone to obtain refugee status because of the overwhelming numbers that have arrived there. This puts huge pressure and uncertainty on the displaced-Syrians that seek refuge in the region.
The Amnesty Ireland Director recalled an encounter he had with a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who told him, in the presence of her young son that she would risk the dangerous trip to Europe because she essentially has nothing else to lose: “I don’t care if it sinks. At least it will be a quick death unlike the slow death I have here,” she told him.
While O’Gorman’s DCU address was governed by discussion of the refugee crisis he too delved into the repeal the eight campaign which Amnesty Ireland have a large hand in at present.
“It’s the first time an Amnesty International campaign has focused on Ireland,” he said.
“Right now, today eight to ten women and girls will leave Ireland to have an abortion. Our law on abortion does not prevent abortion, it prevents safe and legal abortion.”