The UN’s expert on migration has said Ireland should not cap its intake of refugees at whatever figure the EU imposes.
Peter Sutherland, former Irish attorney general and currently UN special representative on migration, said the 1,100 refugees Ireland offered to take in as an interim measure should only be regarded as a starting point.
“Whatever the quota system that the Commission proposes should be put forward, we should adopt, but that is a minimum,” he said.
“The question is whether we feel as a people that the contribution, whatever it is, is sufficient to deal with this crisis.
"I think we should be maximising our potential to be helpful in this situation rather than taking the bare minimum so I hope we do more.”
Mr Sutherland said it was unfair that just five countries were taking the bulk of refugees fleeing the Middle East and Africa.
“What we have is an unbalanced, asymmetric EU, where people are responding in different ways and not following the proposal made by the Commission, which was that there should be a quota system fairly sharing the migrants between the different countries and allowing for an organised European response to a dire humanitarian crisis,” he said.
“History will look back on this moment as a moment of failure by Europe, as things stand, to stand up for its values or to apply them.”
He urged a three-pronged EU approach, giving emergency funds to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to help provide for their 4m Syrian refugees, speeding up asylum applications in Europe and agreeing a permanent system for the fair distribution of refugees and migrants in Europe.
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