“The Fáilte Refugees Society” by Aidan Harte

“The Fáilte Refugees Society” by Aidan Harte

“The Fáilte Refugees Society” by Aidan Harte

As a response to the ongoing global refugee crisis, students at NUI Galway are have started the Galway branch of the nascent ‘Fáilte Refugees’ Campaign. The nationwide campaign aims to increase public awareness regarding the current global refugee crisis, and to empower Irish students to become successful agents of change within their communities. It also hopes to lobby the Irish Government to uphold its promise of accepting at least 4,000 refugees, along with making every effort to restrict the devastating international arms trade. Ultimately, the campaign wishes to welcome refugees in to every Irish community with dignity, and to support their successful integration in to Irish society.

The Fáilte Refugees Society was launched on Societies’ Day in January, and in February collaborated with ALIVE and the National Youth Council of Ireland on the workshop “Migration, Refuge and the Sustainable Development Goals”.  Future guest speaker events will be held throughout semester two, and these will serve to inform volunteers about significant issues, along with providing an opportunity to share ideas. Through effective planning, learning and organising, volunteers will become effective agents of change. The Society will then proceed to broaden our efforts to incorporate the wider community in Galway. This will involve engaging with the local population, as well as liaising with local NGO’s, charities, schools, and other relevant stakeholders, to disseminate our findings. You can get involved by contacting the campaign via email: failterefugeesgalway@gmail.com.

According to the UNHCR report of 2016, this unprecedented refugee crisis has witnessed the greatest level of human displacement on record. Sixty five million people around the world have been forced from their homes, and twenty one million of these have escaped their countries of origin to become refugees, their suffering continuing. Even more disturbing is the fact that over half of those fleeing are under the age of 18. A national campaign of this nature is crucial for holding our government to account, as it will highlight Ireland’s solidarity with those who are forced to flee their homes due to warfare, famine, sexual violence, or other human rights violations. Forty percent of refugees within Europe are children, and this fact alone should provide a real sense of urgency. Ireland has historically been viewed as the country of the Céad Míle Fáilte, and this crisis is an appropriate opportunity to express our compassion as a nation by inviting people in. Yes, we are experiencing a domestic crisis in both health and housing, but we cannot conflate these issues.

The Fáilte Refugees Campaign hopes to ensure that the Irish Government meets its current international obligations to increase its refugee intake as soon as possible. The widely-criticised system of Direct Provision also needs reform, as it has remained largely unchanged since its inception sixteen years ago. Refugees, once placed within this system, are left in a virtual hiatus for up to seven years, awaiting a decision on whether they can remain in Ireland or be sent back to their country of origin. They are housed in whichever random facility the system allocates to them, facilities which are disproportionately operated by private businesses. They are prevented from obtaining employment, while a weekly allowance of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child is allocated to them. According to the Irish Reception & Integration Agency, one quarter of the 4,252 residents in Direct Provision in Ireland are under the age of 18.

The global arms trade is responsible for much inhumane suffering and death, nobody can deny this, and a high percentage of arms used in many Middle Eastern conflict zones are manufactured in European states. These arms are subsequently sold to countries shipping their destructive cargo to Syria and, again, private industries are making obscene profits from the suffering of innocent civilians. We must remember that over seven million refugees are fleeing Syria and Afghanistan, as a direct result of military ‘interventions’ led by Western nations. The people of Ireland have to stand up and hold our Government to account for their actions, taken in our name. Always remember, refugees have no choice - but we do!

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