20 September 2008

80 Africans to be resettled in Co. Mayo

Irish government officials are travelling to Tanzania today to finalise plans for the resettlement of 80 African refugees to Ireland.

All the refugees had fled the civil conflict in the 'Democratic Republic of Congo' (DRC) - a country that does, despite its large size, only really exist on paper and maps - and reached the north-west of Tanzania, where they have been living in camps for some time.

An international agreement, brokered by the United Nations, has allocated various numbers of those refugees to several European countries, and Ireland agreed to take 80.

They are expected to arrive here in about six months' time and will be settled in Co. Mayo, where a six-week integration programme is planned to help them to adjust to their new living conditions. There might be first of all a language problem, as the predominant language spoken in the DRC - a former Belgian colony - is French and not English. There are also many different tribal languages.

Last year, about 100 ethnic Burmese people (who would be familiar with English) were successfully resettled in Co. Mayo and are reported to be integrating well.

As much as I support these programmes to help true refugees, who need our help and support, I also notice a certain contrast in attitude towards different kinds of people in Co. Mayo. While the government provides everything possible for the foreigners that are resettled in this rural county in the west of Ireland, the local Irish population has been treated with contempt for meanwhile eight years and is subjected to massive hostility by the state, its organs - including the Garda Siochana (Ireland's police force) - and Shell, a private foreign company that has been given the right to exploit our natural gas reserves for free.

I think the local people in Co. Mayo will take notice of that and give the government parties a suitable answer in the upcoming local elections, which will take place in the summer of next year.

The Emerald Islander

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