Our failing migration policies: A symptom of a deeper dark malaise

Our failing migration policies: A symptom of a deeper dark malaise
The Department of Justice’s secretive and counter-productive communications policy exacerbates a fraught situation and plays into the hands of racists. Minister Charlie Flanagan should change it

In world terms, Ireland is a nice, middle-class neighbourhood where most children, after an orthodontist’s efforts, have perfect teeth, where there are at least two newish cars outside every house and where a decent broadband lights up a battery of screens, almost one in every window.

That affluence is not universal but, again in world terms, it is undeniable.

It must certainly seem so to a lost teenager offered for sale in today’s slave markets in Libya. It must seem so to a Central American immigrant who dare not even try to cross Mexico’s borderland rivers unless they have a receipt showing they paid a crime cartel for the privilege of trying to reach America.

Any immigrant found without one by a cartel enforcers controlling border crossings has, all of a sudden, far greater problems than Donald Trump’s hostility.

Not so very long ago, it would have been natural to assume, or pretend, that the only barriers an immigrant faced in Ireland were official, but recent events suggest that may not be the case.

Not so very long ago, it would have been natural to assume, or pretend, that we treat immigrants better than America’s build-the-wall president but, as protests over direct provision proposals have shown, that is not possible either.

Neither is it possible to pretend those protests are not without some justification. Our direct provision system is a shameful failure, one that serves neither those in need or the communities asked to host them.

There are exceptions but it does seem a deliberate policy of marginalisation designed to deter those who see a solution to their difficulties on this small island.

The Department of Justice’s secretive and counter-productive communications policy exacerbates a fraught situation and plays into the hands of racists. Minister Charlie Flanagan should change it, no ifs or buts, just do it.

Those protests have highlighted division and fear, they have been emotional and, dangerously, offered a platform to odious views that, for all our faults, are not reflective of Ireland. They do concentrate the mind and challenge our record on this obligation — for it is an obligation if we wish to behave with humanity, courage and basic decency.

This obligation stands despite the charity-begins-at-home opt-out bluster.

Though this tinderbox must be neutralised, it is symptomatic of a deeper malaise — official Ireland’s absolute inability to accept the great changes sweeping our world and prepare accordingly. Irish conservatism seems more a form of frightened stasis than winnowing and preservation.

It is not a stretch to say that difficulties on migration are an extension of our housing crisis, one rooted in our ideological seduction by those who suggest the market is, ultimately, something more than exploitation.

Our refusal to take climate collapse, education funding, water preservation, health services or, say, sacrosanct property rights or the ticking pensions time bomb as seriously as the issues demand ensures a never-ending cycle of crisis.

Strangely, it need not be like this but breaking that cycle demands political leadership and anengaged electorate. If that seems a big ask consider the alternatives.

They are so grim that only the most desperate migrant would consider Ireland an attractive destination.

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