- 19 Dec 19
It's time we take a step back and consider our attitudes towards immigration under a new light. After all, we have a heavy history of our own immigration.
It’s one of the central issues of the day. Every week we hear afresh news of people being detained trying to cross the Mediterranean, the English Channel or stowed away in a freighter arriving in Rosslare. It often ends in tragedy, as it did with the 39 Vietnamese who suffocated in a refrigerated trailer that crossed from Belgium to the UK. The Irish involvement in this, some possibly inadvertent, some perhaps not, should give us pause for thought. Where there’s money to be made, unscrupulousness is all-pervasive.
It’s global. In June, the tragic photos of Alberto Martinez Ramirez from El Salvador and his daughter Valeria in the Rio Grande mud in Texas, shocked and angered many, echoing as it did the photo of three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi lying on a beach near Bodrum in Turkey in 2015.
Humans migrate. That’s how we got to Europe, to America. How hard is it to understand that? The Irish, in particular, have been on the move for millennia. It’s in our DNA. Sometimes it’s been for adventure, other times it’s been for survival, or a decent cut at life. Nowadays, our emigration is usually elective. You’d be more accurate to call it mobility. Our skilled craft workers and professionals get the plane, instead of the boat in days of yore. But it’s still migration and thousands of Irish, every year, find themselves looking for work in a foreign country. In turn, we have skills-gaps at home. We need immigrants.
For that reason, we should doubly deplore the actions and words of those, small in number though they might be, who oppose the provision of care for migrants and asylum seekers. In their prejudice, they forget what it really was, and often still is, to be Irish. Duped by the malign whispers of evil racists they may be, but they should know better. Between 1845 and the end of the 1950s, those refugees were us. To hate them is to hate yourself.
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