More than 1,600 people died in the attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in the months up to September 2018.

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Sir, – Ireland is failing in its responsibility to migrants seeking asylum in European countries.

More than 1,600 people died in the attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in the months up to September 2018. There is little evidence that European ministers for justice, including Charlie Flanagan, have done much to ensure the safety of asylum seekers, at the recent European Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Bucharest.

Fifty organisations, including three from Ireland, called on justice ministers to preserve the fundamental rights of people crossing the Mediterranean to EU countries (Letters, February 7th).

Specifically the EU Council needs to urgently support search and rescue operations, adopt timely and predictable disembarkation for rescued people and end returns to unsafe countries such as Libya, which is a breach of international law. Worryingly the discussion at the EU Council meeting focused more on concerns about counter-terrorism, illegal migration flows towards the EU, and “cooperation with third countries” which often means funding, training and equipping the likes of the Libyan coastguard which last year intercepted thousands of people in the Mediterranean and forced them back to Libya.

The plight of asylum seekers deserves better respect for human rights – worthy of the European values that Mr Flanagan espouses. Members of the Ireland Says Welcome Group in Comhlámh have experience assisting people landing ashore to seek safety and asylum in countries such as Greece. And in Ireland we advocate in solidarity with migrant groups for better integration and housing for asylum seekers and refugees.

We call on the Irish Government to show a welcome for asylum seekers by processing their applications promptly, and ending the protracted and inhumane housing in over-crowded direct provision centres around the country. We believe the Department of Justice is ill-equipped to manage housing and housing policy for those seeking asylum in Ireland. We believe responsibility for housing of asylum seekers should be removed from the Department of Justice and mainstreamed into wider housing policy, to include non-profit housing bodies and social housing.

Sufficient time and budget needs to be given to improved purpose built accommodation rather than the current practice of rushed modifications to existing buildings.

With a little innovation Ireland should be well able to welcome and house the 2,200 people per year, on average, who arrive on our shores seeking asylum. As Nick Henderson of the Irish Refugee Centre argues (Home News, February 15th) it would be incorrect and wrong to blame asylum seekers for what was an accommodation crisis brought about by years of poor planning. – Yours, etc,


Comhlámh Ireland Says Welcome Group,

This letter was published in the Irish Time on Thursday 21st 2019