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European Council: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 926 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry] I share the opinion of the Irish Immigrant Council that this is not acceptable. In fact, I would say that it is shameful.

  Last week, "Match of the Day" presenter Mr. Gary Lineker called on the UK Government to do more and to take more child refugees into the UK. Although he was criticised and abused by The Sun newspaper and by Tory MPs, many ordinary people agreed with the substance of his comments. Where are the Irish Gary Linekers? Why are there not more famous people here speaking out? They should do so because 20 lone children is a scandal and many, many more should be taken in.

  The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, currently hangs in the balance. This EU-Canadian trade treaty opens the door to the privatisation of public services and lowers regulation to the lowest common denominator in fields such as environmental regulation, labour laws and so on. It extends patent protection for prescription drugs, thereby pushing up drug costs and it establishes an investor court system. An investor court system will mean that corporations can sue national governments that introduce new legislation which might restrict their ability to maximise profits. This has the potential to unleash a wave of corporate law suits. Courts of this kind have been used in the past to undermine progressive legislation. For example, when the German Government, under pressure from public protest and public opinion, sought to phase out nuclear power, a Scandinavian nuclear power corporation sued it in an investor court and won hefty damages which were ultimately paid by German taxpayers. Such courts will be able to be used in this way under this new treaty. For example, if a government in an EU member state were to introduce legislation to ban the environmentally dangerous process of fracking it would be open to being sued and forced to pay damages should a case be taken to the investor court by a Canada based fracking corporation.

  Some might say that there are not too many Canadian corporations that might go down that road but they should think again because 81% of companies in Canada are US subsidiaries. Approximately 24,000 US companies have office space and a base in Canada. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, a trade agreement between the EU and the US, is in serious difficulty, in large measure because of huge public opposition but CETA can be TTIP by the back door. There are real dangers involved here. I welcome the fact that four regional parliaments in Belgium have come out against it. They are reflecting public opposition, including huge trade union opposition, in that country. If there is to be any kind of democratic debate or check on this, democracy will win against this agreement. That is the popular feeling in Europe. CETA has been voted down in the Seanad. It will have to be brought before the Dáil and we must have a major debate on it. My colleagues and I will be making the case against this pro-capitalist, anti-worker treaty.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace As the Minister of State will be aware, Deputy Clare Daly and I have been raising the issue of the Calais camp for several months now and have been pleading with the Government to do something proactive. Sadly, only last week I was told in this Chamber that the Government could do nothing about it because it is an unofficial camp, which I found to be an horrific response. In general, the Government's response to the refugee crisis in Europe has been nothing short of disgraceful from the start. The Government should be ashamed of how it has dealt with it. The total lack of political will to actually help has been horrific.

The French are dispersing these people to centres around France but have already said that they do not have the necessary facilities to deal with half the children, the unaccompanied minors, that are involved. There are over 1,000 such children in the camp at Calais. The last time the camp was cleared 129 unaccompanied minors disappeared. I will not even speculate about where they ended up. If, this week and next week, the children are taken to reception centres in places like Paris, statistics show that at least 40% will leave and end up on the streets. They will leave the reception centres. These children are not safe. The British have agreed to do something, at last. They are talking about bringing in a certain number of them. They have said that they will concentrate on those under 12 but it just so happens that there are not many children under 12 in the camp. There are lots of children aged between 12 and 18. Indeed, most of them are in that age group so I remain to be convinced as to just how positive a role the British Government intends playing in this.

Our Government is behaving as if this has nothing to do with us and is none of our business. Even if we had never allowed any military operators to use Shannon Airport, we must still feel some sense of responsibility if people are in trouble. Calais is only across the water from us. We say that we care but there is no proof that we do. We said that we were going to bring 4,000 refugees here by the end of 2017 but the chances of us reaching that figure are nil at this stage, given that we are still only at about the 500 mark.

The European Union has talked about dealing with migration and the problems involved. However, it has no interest in the root causes. We have the US giving munitions to Saudi Arabia every day at the moment to bomb the living daylights out of Yemen. Over 10,000 civilians have been killed in Yemen but we have not heard a word about it in here. What is wrong with us? The people who have survived the attacks in Yemen will become refugees. There will be hundreds of thousands of them because Yemen has a big population. There are over 20 million people in Yemen and hundreds of thousands of them will become refugees because they will have no other choice. They will be driven out of their own country because they are being bombed out of it. In the same way, the Americans bombed the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and, along with 14 other countries, they are bombing the people out of Syria. It is just total madness and we do not say enough about it. We are not neutral. We facilitate it by letting the US use Shannon Airport as a military base. Where is the rationale behind it? I would like to hear someone rationalise it for me and give me a good explanation as to why we allow Shannon Airport to be used by the US military's war machine.

There is just no end to this. It has been getting worse and worse since 2001. The whole region has been destroyed. The EU, in its infinite wisdom, tried to do a deal with Afghanistan a few weeks ago. The EU is going to send people back to Afghanistan. It just so happens that the majority of the people in the Calais camp are from Afghanistan. Deputy Clare Daly and I spent two long days talking to them there. We also spent a day in the camp at Dunkirk, which is mostly populated by Kurds. The Afghanis told us that they will do anything other than go back. They would rather die in Europe than go back to Afghanistan. Most of them have fallen out with either the Taliban, ISIS, or some other elements of al-Qaeda. Others have family members who worked with the US in Afghanistan.

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