Rania Mustafa Ali, 20, filmed her journey [in 2016] from the ruins of Kobane in Syria to Austria. She is cheated by smugglers, teargassed and beaten at the Macedonian border. She risks drowning in the Mediterranean, travelling in a boat meant to hold 15 people but stuffed with 52. Her footage shows what many refugees face on their perilous journey to Europe.
Fine Gael senator Maura Hopkins (pictured above) was interviewed in light of reports that 80 Syrian refugees will be accommodated in a former hotel in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon.
From the interview:
Maura Hopkins: “I became aware of the plan to open an emergency reception and orientation centre at the Abbeyfield Hotel in Ballaghaderreen yesterday evening and, similar to other Oireachtas representatives within the constituency. I was advised that there will be potentially 80 people from Syria, coming through Greece, having been assessed by Irish Department of Justice officials coming to Ballaghaderreen from mid to late-January.”
“And, obviously, you know, I am concerned that there hasn’t been proper consultation, that there hasn’t been proper engagement within the community in Ballaghaderreen. You would understand that, you know, Ballaghaderreen is a very close-knit community and this is our first level of awareness of this happening and these people are, who have gone through very, very difficult times, are potentially coming to Ballaghaderreen in about 10 to 15 days. So, you know, you can appreciate that, you know, actually this morning alone I’ve got numerous, numerous calls and messages from locals who are concerned that there are not proper plans in place to deal with the imminent arrival of these people. And, I mean, I’m fully supportive of the fact that, and Roscommon is aswell, in terms of playing our part and making sure that, you know, we do our fair share in terms of supporting these refugees who have been through the most awful of circumstances.”
“However, I am very concerned with regard to practical plans..”
Sean O’Rourke: “Well, now, just first of all..”
Hopkins: “And also with regards to capacity of a small, local town…”
Hopkins: “It’s more than just moving into a hotel. You know, it’s very important that there is proper and, you know, adequate engagement and consultation with the local community. As I said there, we’re ver close-knit and already this morning, I’ve had numerous, numerous calls from locals who are very concerned that there is not proper plans in place.”
“I would also mention, during my discussions yesterday evening, with the, that, you know, 80 people potentially will be coming in mid to late January but my understanding is the department have assessed this site – which has 40 bedrooms and 29 incomplete apartments as having capacity to deal with a maximum of 250 people. Now Ballaghaderreen has a population of almost 2,000 so we’re talking about 1 in 8 people so this is a major and significant potential change for our town and I certainly think, as a Ballaghaderreen person and, also, as a representative, that it’s very important that there is proper engagement and consultation and that the practicalities and plans are properly worked out.”
O’Rourke: “I think what people are hearing, from what you’re saying Senator Hopkins is more that isn’t so much an opportunity as a threat to your community. Now is that an unfair way of me to characterise it?”
Hopkins: “I certainly think it is..”
O’Rourke: “So could it be a great opportunity to help in the revival of Ballaghaderreen?”
Hopkins: “Potentially, but we need to ensure we have increased resources in order to meet these demands and in order to ensure that these people are provided with a highly supportive, safe environment that, how’d you say, that has proper resources and has a proper plan and the practicalities are worked out.”
O’Rourke: “Yeah, I just, I know my colleagues this morning were speaking and you were the person that was willing to go on record, I think there were people speaking to councillors. I mean are there concerns, for instance, about terrorism?”
Hopkins: “Not that I’m aware of. I mean the concerns that I received this morning were in relation to the resources.”
Hopkins: “And in relation to the capacity of Ballaghaderreen as a town to be able to cope with potentially, you know, a large number, a significant change within the town and ensuring that we have proper resources in place to deal with that.”
Some of the 124 before and after photos released by Aleppo’s Olympia Restaurant showing the devastation of a once beautiful Syrian city by four years of bombing, looting and the destruction of historic monuments.
Meisha Downey (left) and Lily Smullen light a candle “for the children of Syria this Christmas” on behalf of Goal. The conflict has contributed to “the worst refugee crisis since World War II”. GOAL is calling for “united action at European level on Syria and the refugee crisis”.