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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] Anyway, it has had a big effect on the politics of Europe. We see that from the elections in Italy, where a populist anti-immigrant government has been elected and in the countries of central and eastern Europe, where anti-immigration governments have been elected. We cannot be in denial about the fact that this has changed politics. Public opinion in Europe is changing too. We see it evident in Germany, which was initially welcoming to millions of migrants. Now, public opinion is in a very different place in Germany and we cannot be blind to the realities of that.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness It is happening in Austria as well.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar This will be a major feature of the summit in Brussels this week. What is required is that we do three things. The first is that we co-operate with the source countries and transit countries. The second is that we step up border security on the Balkan borders and in the Mediterranean. The third is that we engage in burden sharing. We do that already. We have agreed to take 4,000 migrants from the camps in Italy and Greece. Approximately half of them have arrived. We will continue to accept more. I met some of them when they arrived - they were mainly coming from Syria.

When it comes to co-operation with source countries and transit countries, we have to bear in mind why people risk their lives to travel to Europe and to cross the seas in the way they do. It is because they come from countries that are badly governed or unsafe or where there is no economic opportunity. That is why it must be part of the core mission of Europe, when it comes to the Middle East and Africa, to try to build peace and security and bring about economic opportunities in the Middle East and Africa. We have seen how the power of the free market in Asia has lifted 1 billion people out of poverty in 20 years. We need to see that kind of power happen in Africa as well so that people are not forced to travel.

We need to step up border security as well because what is happening is terrible. People are travelling huge distances. Traffickers put them in dinghies and boats that are not seaworthy knowing full well that European navies and others will come to the rescue and bring them the rest of the journey. That is something that cannot be encouraged. None of us should in any way encourage human trafficking of that nature. The Libyan coastguard has a big job to do to deal with that.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy The Taoiseach is right about one thing anyway: what is happening is terrible. The detention centres, torture, rape and violation of human rights in these camps and detention centres in Libya are unacceptable. The United Nations, Amnesty International and Médecins sans Frontières all say that the Taoiseach, his Government and the EU are colluding in torture, rape and gross abuse of human rights. The Taoiseach is obviously in denial.

I note he failed to give an assurance that Ireland will stop training and funding the Libyan coastguard and, through the coastguard, the Libyan Government, which is torturing migrants in these camps.

The Taoiseach is Minister for Defence and, as such, he is responsible for this area of operations. In a parliamentary reply recently I was told that 139 suspected people smugglers or traffickers had been apprehended under Operation Sophia and that 545 boats were taken from criminal organisations. Were any of these boats or smugglers handed back to the Libyan coastguard? More important, were any of the refugees or migrants on these boats handed over to the Libyan coastguard or any other Libyan ships to be sent back to detention centres in Libya?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I will double check so that I am sure, but I am informed that none of them was handed over to the Libyan coastguard and that they were taken to European countries.

The Deputy ascribed comments to those various organisations. I am not sure that they said that about the Government. One or two might have but they certainly did not all say that. It is very much our position as a government that the camps or detention centres should be run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, or the International Organization for Migration, IOM.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy The UNHCR said it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That is very much the point I will make at the summit of European prime ministers later this week. Reception centres, where they exist, should be run by the UNHCR or the IOM so that we can be assured human rights are upheld and standards are protected. At the same time, we need to ensure we never equivocate on human trafficking. No one should do anything to facilitate these people smugglers and human traffickers.


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