Monday, October 31, 2016

Sr Stan urges Taoiseach to take lead on Calais children

Sr Stanislaus Kennedy has called on the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, to give leadership on the migrant crisis and visit some of the camps in Europe.

“What I would be saying to the Taoiseach is you must go to the camps, you must give symbolic leadership, you must speak to the people there and hear their stories. If Irish people heard their stories they would jump up out of their chairs and say we’ve got to do something about it,” she said.

“I think we need a new start. I am not taking at all from what has been done or is being done, but it isn’t sufficient and it isn’t urgent,” she explained.

In an interview on RTE Radio 1, Sr Stan has likened the escalation of Irish homelessness to the growing European migrant crisis, stating that she would never have imagined that homelessness in Ireland could have become so critical.

“I would say the same about the migrant crisis that we see on the shores of Europe. Unless we are doing something about it now it will get totally out of hand because we cannot stem that tide,” she said.

She spoke of the thousands of unaccompanied children at the Calais camp in France which is now being demolished. She called on the Government to make a commitment to take 200 children.

“We need to do it properly. We need to make sure that we have the standards and procedures there to receive them. I think the government, and particularly the Taoiseach, must lead this. We have had so far a number of government departments and agencies who have had people in the camps who have been looking at it. But that sense of urgency about it has diminished over the past year.”

She admitted that Ireland has not done well in caring for unaccompanied minors but said the country could care for the 200 if the political will is there and the department of the Taoiseach took on the responsibility and appointed a manager with sole responsibility.

She said she has not spoken to the Taoiseach or to his department about this, but has been in touch with other departments with responsibility in this area. She said Ireland is a moderate country in an ever increasing right wing Europe and we could take the lead.

The very strong community spirit across Ireland, seen in groups like the GAA, convinces her that Ireland is ready to take in refugees. But there is also need for a public education programme to help diminish some of the misconceptions out there.

Sr Stan was speaking to Keelin Shanley on the Today with Seán O’ Rourke programme on Tuesday (25 October). She also wrote an article in the Irish Times on the issue.

Separately, the Immigration Council of Ireland, which Sr Stan founded, commented on what it called “the mass exodus of refugees and migrants” from the Calais camp.

Chief Executive Brian Killoran said “We are calling on the Irish and European governments to remember that we are talking about children who are alone, having survived traumatic experiences and being left in inhumane conditions without access to formal education.”

The Council said that people in the queues there said they had no idea where they were going, but that most seemed resigned to leaving.

The camp at Calais, which is also known as ‘The Jungle’, had grown to become home to around 7,000 migrants and refugees, many of whom want to go to the UK. 

There are an estimated 1,300 unaccompanied minors in the camp.

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