What are the issues that PoSI is responding to?
The world is currently facing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, and thousands of displaced people from Syria, the Middle East, Afghanistan and several African countries are languishing in overcrowded, under-resourced refugee camps or trying to make hazardous journeys into and through Europe. We welcome the commitment that the Irish government has made to receive 4000 of the neediest refugees in Ireland. We welcome the involvement of UNHCR, Irish Red Cross and established NGOs working with the Justice Department on the logistical issues involved in receiving these numbers – small in comparison to the problem, but far bigger than any previous resettlement programme.
The public has responded very generously to the recent refugee crisis, with a wide range of pledges which are currently being logged by the Red Cross. Underpinning this response is a very significant groundswell of support for refugees arriving in Ireland having faced very real hardship. PoSI proposes a grass-roots approach to harnessing the support of the public in order to help refugees integrate into Irish society. Around the country, in cities, towns and rural communities, there are individuals and small groups (many of which are not linked to the migration-related NGOs) who want to help the refugees. How can their enthusiasm be used effectively to the benefit of refugees without stifling their creativity or independence to ensure that refugees arriving have the maximum chance to integrate into society? Céad mile fáilte – the welcome we feel so proud of as part of our national identity – can take on a whole new dimension.
Thousands of ordinary Irish people have responded to the refugee crisis by offering beds, collecting clothes and toys for Calais, forming small solidarity groups and joining demonstrations and marches up and down the country. By harnessing and channelling this goodwill and helping allay the fears of others who are not so sure, we will be able to underpin the work of the Government and statutory agencies with groups of volunteers expressing welcome in very practical and local ways. In this way ‘sanctuary’ will happen across society and everyone will feel safer.
This volunteer-driven approach to integration can be summarized as building blocks ABC - Awareness Raising, Befriending, and Cultural Engagement. Ideally they build on each other, with Awareness Raising providing the foundation and starting point. These suggested approaches have been tried and tested in many locations across Europe.