Irish have long sought refuge overseas and so must offer refuge

So far, the Irish navy has rescued 1,700 men, women and children in the Mediterranean and deposited them in Italy.

Irish have long sought refuge overseas and so must offer refuge

Not surprisingly, Italy is having great difficulty coping with the huge numbers of asylum seekers that are being forced upon it, estimated to have been 170,000 in 2014 and expected to be 200,000 in 2015.

France has closed its borders to migrants travelling from Italy, and other European countries are also considering border restrictions.

The international refugee system is at breaking point, especially in Italy, yet, the Irish navy is landing hundreds of additional migrants in Italy each week.

Ireland has clear obligations with regard to refugees and asylum seekers, under the UN Refugee Convention 1951 (and its subsequent protocols).

Yet, instead of taking our fair share of asylum seekers, Ireland has been using another convention, known as the Dublin III regulation, to send asylum seekers back to the country where they first entered the EU, or to the other four countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) who are part of Dublin III regulations.

However, since the Irish naval ship, LE Eithne, is arguably the equivalent of Irish sovereign territory, when on the high seas, any asylum seekers who are taken on board should be entitled to apply for asylum in Ireland. Other states that have signed up to Dublin III should likewise be entitled to send these asylum seekers to Ireland. Irish people fleeing hunger, poverty and persecution have found refuge in many foreign countries, even in recent times.

Its time we lived up to our humanitarian obligations.

Dr Edward Horgan




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