UCC group asks Irish bishops to provide shelter for refugee families

Syrian refugees fleeing to Greece

A University College Cork campaign group for refugees is calling on all Catholic bishops to “confirm publicly” that they have the resources to provide shelter for refugee families.

The group is demanding “these vulnerable people be resettled to Ireland as a matter of urgency”.

UCC’s Friends of Refugees group wrote to the bishops last month, asking they host one family each in response to Pope Francis’s call to do just that.

In April, the Pontiff took three Syrian families to the Vatican and called on Catholic bishops across Europe to follow suit.

He had said taking in desperate asylum seekers was a way to “express the Gospel in concrete terms”.

Piaras McEinri, a spokesman for the UCC group, pointed out that the Catholic Church has more than 1,000 parishes in the Republic of Ireland.

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“If each of these were to provide refuge for one family this would provide ample accommodation for the 4,000 refugees the Government has committed to resettling in this country,” he said.

Last September, the Government pledged to take 4,000 refugees; 2,622 were to be taken in under the EU relocation scheme from Italy and Greece, and 520 from Lebanon under the refugee resettlement programme.

The department said the Government still has not decided how the additional 858 refugees will be brought to Ireland.

To date, just one Syrian family has been resettled in Ireland under the EU’s slow-moving relocation programme. The department said that a further 31 Syrian asylum seekers have been cleared for transit to Ireland and are expected to arrive in later this month.

In its letter to bishops, Friends of Refugees said it has identified resources, mainly offered by UCC staff and students, that will be of value to refugees in the Cork area including language classes, counselling, and other forms of community activity and support.

“We ask that your dioceses consider what other support it can provide to refugees either within Ireland, in Europe or in the Middle East through services, essential supplies, and financial support,” they wrote.

“We ask you to bear in mind the extreme vulnerability of refugees in refugee camps in the Middle East and Turkey, in Greece and Italy, and in transit through Europe.

“We also recall that many of these refugees have lost all their possessions, and are fleeing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in their native countries.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, replied to the group’s letter stating that he would circulate it to all bishops for their “attention and consideration.”

A spokesperson for the Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference said the matter was for each individual bishop to consider.

UCC’s campaign group decided to make the letter public today on World Refugee Day.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 60 million people are displaced worldwide.

Each day thousands more flee their homes.

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