In recent weeks the refugee crisis has captured the full attention of the Irish public. Shocking stories and images have triggered many â€œIreland must do moreâ€ headlines in the Irish press from Irish Times, to the Independent and thejournal.ie.
Ireland has agreed to take more than 600 refugees in the next two years. In comparison with other European countries, Ireland is one of the countries with the fewest asylum applications, only 0,3 per 1000 inhabitants.
When we say Ireland has to do more, we recognise that the Government has a massive part to play but each of us can also contribute to this issue and stand up to make Ireland a country that helps people who have been persecuted and expelled to build a new future and welcome them to this country. This refugee crisis is a global challenge that needs the solidarity, commitment and compassion of all of us living in privileged countries. It starts with you!
1. Stand in solidarity with refugees
Let’s start with the easiest step: Sign this petition on Uplift to â€œallow thousands not hundreds of refugees seek refuge in Irelandâ€.
Together we can give a clear sign to the government that the Irish population stands behind this increase in numbers and is ready to welcome more refugees. Once you’ve put your name on this petition you can also send an email or a letter to Francis Fitzgerald, the Minister for Justice and Equality ([email protected]) and your local TD (contact.ie) making your position clear and asking him / her to push for an increase on the 600. While this may seem meaningless, every piece of communication can have an impact.
Iceland have set a great example with a petition signed by thousands, calling on their government to take in more Syrian refugees, with many offering to accomodate them in their own homes and give them language lessons.
2. Show your solidarity on the ground
People in Ireland will take to the streets on September 12th with a demonstration in Dublin as part of a “European Day of Action”. Let’s show where Ireland stands and meet in Dublin next week. The rally will start at 2pm at the Spire in O’Connell Street.
Another opportunity to make the voices of a large group of the Irish population heard takes place this weekend with two of the biggest GAA matches of the year taking place in Croke Park on Saturday and Sunday. German Football fans recently led the way.
Heartwarming welcome to refugees from Germany's football fans. Theresa May & David Cameron should pay attention. pic.twitter.com/8Ts9COCOMm
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) August 31, 2015
3. Make a donation
Lots of refugees are taking the route through Calais, trying to reach the UK. The refugee camp in Calais is one of the biggest in Europe with 3,000 people living there and about 100 arriving every day. The Gofundme site â€œIreland Calais Refugee Solidarityâ€ is taking donations from Ireland to help people in Calais on the ground. In their own words: â€œWe are collecting supplies to bring to migrants stranded in Calais and living in tents. What these people have been through to get to Calais is unbelievable, they are heroes and deserve our support. We are raising money to help transport collected supplies to Calais and to purchase camping equipment and food also.â€œ
While the Irish Government will hopefully facilitate more refugees coming into Ireland, there is a lot we can do in our communities in anticipation of this. A lot of examples of communities supporting the work with refugees and making them feel welcome in the new country are coming from Germany at the minute where solidarity has reached an unknown level.
4. Offer accommodation for a refugee
A group of young people in Berlin set up the site Refugees Welcome, providing an online platform, often referred to as the airbnb for refugees, where people can offer a room to take someone in. (Read more about it in the Guardian)
If you have a spare room and would be ready to give it to a refugee or if you’d like to help setting up the initiative in Ireland you can fill out this form.
At ChangeX we’ve already tried to reach out to the organisers to discuss replicating the model here in Ireland. We’d love to bring Refugees Welcome to changex.org and to make it easy for everyone in Ireland to adopt this model once needed.
There is another campaign on uplift where you can pledge a bed for a refugee.
5. Set up free English lessons and offer a hand in the day-to-day life
One of the biggest challenges for people coming to a new country despite the horror they’ve left behind is understanding a new language and negotiating day-to-day life. Refugee accomodation and camps can be very isolated places that often leads to prejudice, fear and misunderstanding in the communities where they are. People from the community getting involved as volunteers can play a huge role in promoting integration.
In Ireland, Fàilte Isteach is an established organisation, that organises volunteers around teaching migrants helping them integrate and thrive in our communities. There is at least one Fàilte Isteach class up and running in almost every county in Ireland, but there could be more and there will be more needed once we top up the numbers of refugees coming to Ireland.
If you want to set one up in your area just register your interest here and we can have a chat about it.
6. Start thinking about how you can start programmes for social activities
Doing sports together
Learning the new language covers the most essential bit of entering this new life but it’s only the beginning in integrating refugees into their new communities and offering them a better life. Bringing locals and refugees together in a social environment is just as important. Sports clubs, like football or rugby clubs are often the first ones to take action here, opening new teams or inviting refugees to their training. There is no better way to establish friendship than kicking a ball together.
We were inspired a couple of months ago by the commitment to inclusion and integration shown by the community in Ballyhaunis, where roughly 250 refugees, mostly from African countries are living. Here the Ballyhaunis GAA club has made integration of immigrant children a priority. Refugees and locals are trainging Rugby side by side.
Another great initiative from Germany is called “Ãœber den Tellerrand kochen“, or translated to “cooking outside the box”, where locals and migrants cook together, people organise public dinners for refugees and intercultural cooking classes. “We will get to know each other, have a relaxing evening together, immerse ourselves in a new culture and start thinking outside the box.”
Lots of communities in Austria and Germany have also started “Welcome dinners”, making the arrival in the new country easier for people. We’re hoping to make one of these ideas available on ChangeX soon so watch this space.
7. Raise your voice against hate and racism towards refugees every day
While solidarity and voluntary engagement in communities has reached a new height in many places, so has xenophobia. Refugees and volunteers alike, experience attacks and public figures who take a position for refugees are spammed with hate-mails and disparaging comments on Facebook.
These voices can already be heard here in Ireland also. For each person rushing against refugees, we need 1,000 to raise their voices for them. Ireland can start to do that now not allowing any room for hate and racism in the first place and creating an atmosphere in this country that’s welcoming whatever the number of people will be that will find a new home here.
At ChangeX we will follow the topic over the next weeks and months, take as much action as we can ourselves and keep you informed about what you can do in your community to help in this global refugee crisis. Please let us know if we’re missing anything or if there’s anything else we can do together.