OVER 450 beds have been offered to refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and other countries from families in Limerick in light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
The beds in Limerick have been pledged by some 173 individuals, and that figure is expected to rise even further in the coming week.
The ‘pledge a bed’ campaign on Uplift.ie has seen more than 11,300 offers of beds from over 4,600 people throughout the country.
Doras Luimni, the local support group for all migrants, said this is an “amazing gesture” by the local population, but asked “will Limerick City and County Council echo this pledge and make a commitment to resettle refugees here in Limerick?”
Meanwhile, in a further display of solidarity, a group of volunteers in Limerick city is collecting items for refugees based in Calais.
Nadine Buttery set up the Limerick to Calais group on Facebook on Friday last, and in the meantime it has received some 3,500 ‘likes’.
She secured an old building to be used as a depot, at the back of the Cahill May Roberts building, Bank Place, and as it opened its doors this Monday morning, it was inundated with items for donation.
“I originally thought of gathering tents at Electric Picnic to help, but I realised I was one of a thousand people thinking the same thing,” she told the Limerick Leader.
Instead, she set up the depot and said “everything mushroomed” since that photograph of the three year-old boy who drowned and was washed up on a beach in Kos was published by the world’s media.
“It’s changing shape every day, as is the situation in Europe. There are a load of people coming to us saying ‘I want to go [on the convoy to Calais] as well, but I’ll pay for my own ticket.”
Some of the items will be boarded for trucks and vans to be taken to Calais via StenaLine, while there is also a depot in Shannon and other items may be flown to Austria and Hungary.
The Limerick group is primarily trying to provide items for the thousands of men in ‘The Jungle’ in Calais, as they seek to make their way to Britain.
Among the items they are taking include: toothpaste, after-shave, baby wipes, shoes, socks, trousers, hoodies, jackets and hats. They are not taking food donations at this time.
She said within 12 hours 1,000 had ‘liked’ the Facebook page, and it has now grown to some 3,500.
Mum Rula Al-aken, a Syrian woman, who moved to Ireland from Damascus in 1999 and settled in Limerick in 2004, was among those dropping off donations this week.
“After the child that died last week, I just needed to do something.” Her father passed away in 2013, and she was unable to travel home as it was during the war.
Her brother has moved to Germany, and she said she has no more family in her native country.
“When I came here I was the first Syrian in Limerick. I’m looking forward to seeing more Syrians here. I’d love to meet them. I’m from Syria, so I’m biased [about taking more refugees]. I know there are Irish homeless, but they are safe, Syrian people are not safe, that’s the difference.”
While some 20 people have volunteered their time, more are still welcome.
The depot is open from Monday to Friday, from 10am to 5pm.
They are collecting storage and clothing items, not food at this time.
They need clear plastic bin bags, boxes and reusable storage.
For anyone in west Limerick who can not make it into the city, please feel free to drop items into either the Willow Cafe in Pallaskenry or the Seven Sisters Pub in Kildimo.
See their Facebook page for more details on how you can help.
For further details on how to help see Facebook.com/LimericktoCalais.
While the German government will spend an extra €6 billion to cope with this year’s record influx of refugees, amounting to some 800,000 there, Ireland’s response to date has been heavily criticised.
The State initially pledged to take in just 600 refugees, but Tánaiste Joan Burton has said there is no “upper limit” on the number of refugees Ireland will take.
She said has they will not be housed in direct provision centres, which have also been a source of controversy, but potentially in army barracks or vacant housing.
Fianna Fail deputy Willie O’Dea has said Ireland’s reputation as a “caring and compassionate country” is at risk if the Government continues to drag its feet on this crisis.
“After months of procrastination the Irish Government and the European Union need to take urgent action,” he said.
Deputy O’Dea said the tragic deaths of two young Syrian boys - one of whom was washed up on a beach on Turkey after drowning - “have to be the catalyst for every country in the EU to make an extra effort to ease this horrific humanitarian crisis”.
He said some months ago Peter Sutherland, the UN Special Representative on Migration, pleaded with the Irish government to do more and his pleas fell on deaf ears.
“Europe needs a comprehensive response to the migrant crisis that addresses the need to house and relocate migrants but that also begins to address the destabilisation of countries in the Middle East and north Africa. The Irish Navy is playing an important role and saving thousands of lives in the Mediterranean Sea but Ireland can and should be doing much more to help ease the crisis,” he said.
“We have to learn the lesson from the Second World War. These families are predominantly war refugees from Syria.
“They are risking their lives to try to get to another country to live normally and raise their children in a safe and secure environment.
“They are crossing land and sea in a desperate cry for help. Ireland and Europe cannot ignore it any longer and as Mr. Sutherland said “Europe has a brief chance to rescue its integrity”.
“I have no doubt there would be all party agreement in the Dáil to accommodate more refugees and I am calling on the Taoiseach to make this urgent decision immediately.
“The Taoiseach also needs to confirm that the government will allow the Irish Navy to continue to assist in operations in the Mediterranean Sea beyond the deadline of October.”
The Bishop of Limerick, Dr Brendan Leahy, has also urged the State, the Church, and groups around the country to work together in order to play a more meaningful role in the current migration crisis in Europe.
Bishop Brendan Leahy said we all need to have the courage to look at what role we could play in helping people in tremendous need.
“Anyone listening to their conscience now can’t but feel challenged by what we are witnessing these days, weeks and months on our television screens and other social media networks. Last month alone, according to reports, a record 107,500 migrants crossed the European borders.”
He said that the word “migrant” could as easily be replaced with “refugee” as more than 60% of those seeking help have come from Syria, Eritrea, and Afghanistan, nations he described as being in the grip of war and religious persecution.
“These people are seeking refuge for one reason or another; they are people in tremendous need and would not have set out on the hazardous journey unless there was an element of desperation about their situation.
A table quiz in aid of relief efforts for the refugee crisis will be held on Wednesday, September 30 in Dolan’s pub..
All funds raised will go to Medicin Sans Frontiers (MSF) working in the Mediterranean, rescuing and giving emergency medical assistance.