A concerned member of the public believes Syrian refugees should not be allowed to settle in Derry until the people already living here are cared for first.
Emmett Doherty, a 47- year-old father of four and a construction worker from the Waterside in Derry, contacted the ‘Journal’ earlier this week to convey his anxiety over the planned re-settlement of Syrian refugees in Derry next year.
Mr. Doherty believes the people of Derry need to be “happy and satisfied” before any refugees or asylum seekers are allowed to re-settle here.
“All I want is an open and honest debate on the issue of Syrian refugees coming to Derry,” insisted Mr. Doherty.
“I see charity nights being held for Syrian refugees in this town every week - would those charity nights and the money raised not be better used to help people with dementia, the homeless and the sick?” he asked.
Mr. Doherty, who is originally from Creggan, says he attended the Syrian refugee event in the Foyle Arena last week and found it “intimidating.”
“When I attended the event in the Foyle Arena I didn’t see any local people. It was people from out of town who were dressed up with turbans on their heads, Chinese people, Indian people and they all had name tags on them - I found it all very intimidating,” he said.
Mr. Doherty denied that his opinions couldbe deemed racist and said he would prefer to see local issues dealt with first before addressing the complexity of the Syrian refugee problem.
“I am not racist - I realise that what is happening to the refugees must be addressed but it should not come before what is happening in Derry at the moment.
“We can’t forget the issue of welfare reform - things could get much worse for people living in Derry - we haven’t seen the start of it.”
He added: “There is going to be money spent on Syrian refugees. Why isn’t that money being put towards helping our young people and helping the older generations within their communities?
“I lost my mother to Dementia in 2013 and watching her go through what she went through is one of things that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Why can’t the money that will be used to re-settle Syrians in Derry be used to help people like my mother first?
“I am not saying the Syrian refugees should not come here at all - I am simply saying that we should wait until everything is happy and satisfied here first and then look at the issue of refugees.”
When asked what he would do with those refugees who are currently in dire need of help, Mr. Doherty said the war in the Middle East was not the fault of Derry people.
““I think it’s brutal what is happening there but it’s largely down to lawless countries and their governments allowing this to happen. It’s not the people of Derry’s fault - we didn’t create this war. Derry has suffered enough here during the ‘troubles.’ We are still feeling the effects of the ‘troubles’ - there is still poverty and the whole dole economy is still here. I am sad to say it but I can’t see us ever getting away from that. We need jobs not migrants. We need proper jobs, not call centre jobs where people are treated like second class citizens,” he concluded.