Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 7

First Page Previous Page Page of 85 Next Page Last Page

(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar]  I am advised that the licence was the subject of a piece on a recent edition of the "Eco Eye" programme but that neither the Department nor BioAtlantis Limited was asked to contribute. They would argue that the piece in question did not accurately reflect all the facts of the case, including the extent of the area to be harvested annually or the provisions regarding sustainability inserted into the granted licence.

An environmental impact assessment was not carried out. Such an assessment is a mandatory requirement for a wide range of public and private projects - including those relating to motorways, airports, installations and the disposal of hazardous waste - under annexe 1 of the relevant directive. However, an assessment was not necessary in this case because the proposed project is not within a Natura 2000 site and is not of a class set out in the directive to which I refer.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy Since Operation Pontus in the Mediterranean became Operation Sophia, the number of refugees landing in Italy has more than halved. For a considerable time, there has been serious concern that the price that the EU and Ireland are prepared to pay for stemming migration is the gross abuse of the human rights of migrants. The Irish office of Amnesty International has stated, "The Libyan coastguard is intercepting people in distress at sea and transferring them to Libya, where they are being held in detention centres and exposed to systematic and widespread human rights violations such as arbitrary detention, torture, rape and exploitation." The statement goes on to indicate that while Ireland is not directly sending people back to Libya, it shares responsibility due to Europe's joint actions to strengthen the capacity of the Libyan coastguard to intercept people and return them to Libya. Amnesty International has said that EU member states, including Ireland, cannot plausibly claim to be unaware of the grave violations being committed by some of the detention centre officials and coastguard agents with whom they co-operate. It has also argued that European Governments, including Ireland, stand accused of being knowingly complicit in the torture and exploitation of thousands of migrants and refugees by the EU-financed Libyan coastguard and officials running the country's detention camps. The UN human rights chief, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, has also described the suffering of migrants in these camps as "an outrage to the conscience of humanity". Médecins sans Frontières has also supported, in various reports, the views of those other organisations.

  In view of the human rights abuses in Libya I have outlined, will the Taoiseach order Irish vessels to cease all co-operation with the Libyan coastguard? Will his Government cease participation in the training and funding of the Libyan coastguard through Operation Sophia? In a reply to a recent parliamentary question, I was told that, on its tour of duty, the LÉ Niamh rescued more than 600 migrants, 294 of whom were put ashore in Italy. Will the Taoiseach tell the Dáil to what non-Irish vessels were the remaining more than 300 migrants transferred? Where were those transferred migrants put ashore in each case? Will the Taoiseach give an assurance that none of these migrants was transferred to the Libyan coastguard by the LÉ Niamh or to any other vessel to which they had already been transferred?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Deputy asked if we will withdraw from our mission in the Mediterranean in Operation Sophia. We will not do so. I am very proud of the work that our Naval Service and Defence Forces are doing in the Mediterranean, rescuing migrants from the sea and training the Libyan coastguard to do what a coastguard should be able to do, namely, secure its seas and do its work, at least in its own territorial waters. It is an operation of which we are part. We are very proud of our Naval Service for being part of it. That will continue. The Deputy asked if people were transferred to the Libyan coastguard. I am advised by the Minister of State with responsibility for defence that this was not the case and people transferred to other boats were brought to Italy. I will seek confirmation of that to ensure I am correct in that regard.

It is evident to everyone in Europe that we face a large amount of migration from the Middle East and Africa. The numbers have decreased considerably in the past couple of years.


Last Updated: 09/03/2020 15:28:36 First Page Previous Page Page of 85 Next Page Last Page