Irish Refugee Tragedy Spotlights 'Fortress Europe'
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Five survivors among 13 refugees smuggled into Ireland in a container were
seriously ill on Sunday while church and refugee leaders said a "fortress Europe" mentality
was a factor in the deaths of the eight others.
"Obviously when people are desperate they go underground," said Roman Catholic Bishop of Ferns Bernard Comiskey, who expressed his sympathy in a statement to be read at mass.
"European legislation will have to be looked at," he said. "Europe is becoming known as a 'fortress Europe' instead of a family of nations."
Church and refugee leaders said Ireland should examine the reasons behind such a tragedy, saying tougher immigration rules and stricter asylum laws across the European Union were forcing refugees to take desperate measures.
Irish police have launched a huge investigation into the grim discovery which shocked the nation on Saturday.
A truck driver delivering a container full of office furniture to a business park near Wexford, southern Ireland, found 13 people had stowed away inside.
Eight of the victims, including three children, one a boy as young as four or five, and a woman, had died in what witnesses said were horrifying conditions. Forensic experts had to revise original determinations of the ages and genders of the dead because the bodies were so deteriorated.
The five survivors, including a woman and four men aged between 17 to 35, were in serious condition in hospital.
"They've improved since yesterday, but they're still ill and they're going to be in hospital for a long time," Wexford General Hospital spokeswoman Audrey Lambourne said.
Police were looking into how the refugees got inside the container which originated in Milan, Italy, was shipped through Germany and traveled on a ship to Ireland from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.
The ship, called the Dutch Navigator, arrived in Waterford Port on Thursday.
The nationalities of the refugees have also been the subject of speculation, with suggestions they may be Romanian, Turkish or Armenian, but police said so far nothing had been confirmed. "We'll be using Interpol and Europol and all the other means that we can to try and trace them," police spokesman Paul O'Connor said.
Irish government officials have vowed human traffickers responsible for the smuggling will be tracked down, but refugee activists said they hoped Ireland would see the tragedy as an occasion to examine the underlying reasons for the problem.
"This is a timely warning of the dangers in trafficking," said Iain Hovelt, chairperson of the Irish Refugee and Immigration Law Association.
"We should not blame the people who are the victims, and I think the Irish would respond to that since their history has been one of struggle."