Sinn Fein Senator Paul Gavan has made an impassioned plea at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for immediate action to save lives in the Mediterranean Sea.
Speaking during a debate on the topic Senator Gavan said:
“Human Rights are universal. Democracies are founded on that very principle. And that principle is being undermined every day that the vulnerable and powerless are left to perish in the Mediterranean.
“Earlier this week we heard President Macron reject the term ‘Fortress Europe’, but what other words could you use to describe a situation where the European Union has allowed 20,000 people to perish in the Mediterranean over the last 6 years?
“What word other than ‘fortress’ could describe the disgraceful use of human beings as bargaining chips in a shameful deal with the authoritarian regime in Turkey designed to keep desperate asylum seekers out of sight.
“The annual military expenditure of EU member states is €200 Billion Euros, with official EU policy being to massively increase this figure.
“Imagine if even a portion of that funding was diverted towards a progressive settlement programme across member states?
“But instead of helping migrants, we are now committed to spend more than €30bn a year on border security to keep them out. European money funds a despot in Turkey and warlords in Libya.
“We export our migrant crisis and wash our hands of it, in the name of ‘protecting our European way of life’.
“I welcome the call for a new EU rescue mission. But Such a mission must be different from Operation Sophia in that it should not engage in assisting gangsters and warlords masquerading as coastguard and financing the running of death and torture camps in Libya.
“So what is to be done? This resolution puts in very simply: ‘it is the duty of states not to let people drown in the Mediterranean’.
“And this duty falls to all of us. And some countries have simply failed to show solidarity.
“My Country, Ireland, is one of those. Over a five year period we have taken a total of just 2555 people, this despite a pledge to take 4000 people.
“To put these two pitifully low figures in context this year alone, 77000 human beings have crossed the Mediterranean in a desperate journey seeking refuge and protection.
“These figures for my country are frankly abysmal and a stain on our record in the field of human rights.
“The Government of Ireland must now begin now to show true solidarity and significantly increase the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers that it is prepared to resettle.
“They must also immediately dismantle the direct provision system currently employed to receive asylum seekers.”