herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

'We're so grateful for Ireland's warm heart', refugee tells UN chief Ban Ki-moon

visit

Ban Ki-moon has a pint of Guinness in Brogan's Bar in Dame Street with boss Ben Brogan
Ban Ki-moon has a pint of Guinness in Brogan's Bar in Dame Street with boss Ben Brogan

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been told of the "incredible welcome" that refugees have received in Ireland, which they now call home.

Mr Ban, who is in Ireland on a three-day visit, met refugees from Syria, South Sudan, Congo and Myanmar who have been resettled here.

Addressing them in Dublin Castle, he told his personal story of being displaced during the Korean War when he was a child and said he could empathise with the suffering they had experienced.

flee

"I had to flee my home. When I look back, what I saw was that my village where I spent every day with my family, where I prayed, was all destroyed," he said.

He recalled the "abject poverty" and hunger experienced by millions of people, and expressed his "deep admiration" for the refugees' "resilience, commitment and mutual respect".

"Have courage, do not despair, the UN, the international community and the EU will always be with you," he said.

Mr Ban heard moving personal stories from some of those in attendance.

Razan Ibraheem, originally from Syria, said other countries could learn from Ireland's history of helping those in need.

"If only Ireland was geographically as big and warm as its heart," she said.

Ms Ibraheem added that Ireland had been "just as compassionate" and welcoming as she had expected and gave her the "chance of a new life" she otherwise could not have had.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said it was important that Ireland continued its support for the resettlement programme.

"It's worked well over the last number of years and many refugees have benefited hugely from the resettlement," she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said the recent announcement that Ireland would resettle 550 refugees by the end of next year was further proof of the country's commitment to the programme.

She also paid tribute to the "many communities around Ireland" that have welcomed refugees.

missions

Mr Ban's visit comes as Ireland celebrates its 60th year of membership of the UN.

Earlier in the day, he visited the Defence Forces camp in the Curragh where he was shown some of the equipment used in peacekeeping missions.

He met President Michael D Higgins for a special lunch at which they discussed the role Irish troops have played in missions around the world.

Mr Higgins praised Mr Ban's achievements in the areas of disarmament, arms control and gender equality.

Mr Ban later enjoyed a pint of Guinness in Brogan's Bar opposite Dublin Castle.

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