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Migrants bring to mind 'coffin ships' of Famine

Published 09/09/2015

We have all witnessed in disbelief the appalling and desperate images of refugees desperate to escape war and violence. Sadly, 170 years ago, immigrant "coffin ships" were a reality of the Irish Famine.

Brave and desperate people undertook the terrible path of an Atlantic crossing to avoid starvation: "Hundreds of men, women and children huddled together in the dark on bare wooden floors with no ventilation, breathing a stench of vomit and the effects of diarrhoea amid no sanitary facilities."

As a commentator said at the time, these immigrants "were only flying from one form of death". Many starved and others died from disease.

With so many dead on board the waiting ships, hundreds of bodies were simply dumped overboard into the sea. It is tragic that, in 2015, not 1845, we are witnessing modern-day coffin ships.

Given our harsh experiences with famine and emigration, it is only right that we stretch ourselves as a nation and reach out a generous hand of friendship to welcome refugees fleeing war and suffering in countries such as Syria.

CLLR TIM ATTWOOD (SDLP)

Belfast City Council

Belfast Telegraph

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