The discovery of men, who are believed to be Kurdish, in the back of a lorry in Wexford during the week shows the desperation that many asylum seekers feel. Willing to risk their lives for the smallest chance of safety in a new country, they face dangers that many of us here in Ireland will never have to even consider. Moving to a new country is stressful in and of itself. Now imagine fleeing war or persecution. Imagine paying everything you have in order for the chance to arrive in Europe and start anew. It’s difficult to imagine ourselves in such a situation.
Yet this is the one that countless people find themselves in. They want a place of safety for them and their families. And in some cases they find what they are looking for here in Ireland. Should they be persecuted and lambasted for this? Of course not. But there are some who think otherwise.
After the discovery in Wexford there were those on Twitter who called for the men to be arrested and deported. One woman, who is apparently a barrister, took issue with the fact that the men were being “treated with compassion”. She argued that “Compassion should be reserved for victims”. Instead, the men were “Criminals” and “should be treated as such”.
International law is very clear about the supposed criminality of the men in question. In short, they aren’t criminals. Not by a long shot. In fact, international law makes it clear that people seeking asylum may have to break immigration laws. And what’s more, they “should not be penalized for their illegal entry or stay”.
But the narrative that haters of asylum seekers want to popularise is the opposite. They believe, and want others to believe, that we are being invaded by criminals who are seeking to undermine Irish society and culture. No philosophical or statistical argument will change their minds. Their ideology does not permit such flexibility.
Our own history will also not convince them. Irish history is replete with examples of our friends and relatives seeking out a new life on foreign shores. It’s also filled with examples of these same relatives doing so illegally. How many of us know of someone who intentionally overstayed their visa in the US or Australia? And they weren’t fleeing war, natural disasters, or persecution either. In the majority of cases they left Ireland and stayed in the US and Australia for economic reasons. We didn’t condemn these people.
But if there are those who come to Ireland seeking asylum or simply want to move here for economic reasons then the same understanding does not extend to them. We should treat them as criminals; as lessers not deserving of a place to live a life in comfort and safety. It is the apotheosis of hypocrisy.
We should welcome those who arrive here and want to lead a life in peace. In fact, we should feel privileged that we can offer a new beginning for people regardless of where they originally come from. It isn’t an easy task and the far right is doing everything it can to make it even more difficult. But we can succeed. And we’ll be a better country and a better people for it.
Featured image via The Beacon