Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has called on the European Union to do more to tackle the humanitarian crises which are causing thousands of people to die while attempting to try cross the Mediterranean.
Crowe was speaking during statements in the Dáil today to mark Europe Day, which is on Saturday 9 May.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“The Mediterranean is quickly becoming a graveyard.
“Last year 3,200 men, women and children died while trying to cross the Mediterranean and reach the EU. 170,000 made the journey safely and landed in Italy in 2014. This is solely down to the help and support of the Italian navy.
“They came from impoverished countries in Africa and Asia and were fleeing conflict, persecution, and hunger.
“Over 1,700 people have died in the first 4 months of this year while trying to cross the Mediterranean. That is 100 times more than this time last year. As human beings how can we turn aside and ignore this huge humanitarian crisis.
“This summer hundreds of thousands of tourists will be flying to the beaches of the Mediterranean to enjoy themselves. At the same time hundreds of thousands of adults and children will be placed in overcrowded and unsafe rafts, dinghies, and boats, on a mission to reach the EU alive.
“We need to ensure that thousands more don’t drown.
“We have heard that EU Governments have planned to triple Triton’s mission budget to €9 million per month and provide some more ships.
“The plans for more money and boats have yet to be realised.
“Just last weekend 6,770 people were rescued by the Italian coastguard.
“The Italian navy is still conducting search and rescue missions, while the EU’s Triton mission is primarily about patrolling the EU’s borders. This is blatantly wrong and needs to be changed. It doesn’t matter how much money is pumped into the Triton mission, Europe needs to focus on active search and rescue mandate.
“I welcome that the Minister for Defence is planning on sending the LÉ Eithne to region.
“We also need to examine other options and increase the amount of refugees that Ireland is currently accepting. Ireland’s LÉ Eithne can’t rescue migrants and just drop them off in Malta and Italy and forget about them.
“There needs to be an EU focus on increasing our collective support and help to southern European countries who are on the frontline, and one of those initiatives must be to increase our refugee quota.
“The world is experiencing an unprecedented amount of simultaneous humanitarian crises and the UN estimates that 50 million people are currently displaced. Many are fleeing war and famine and are seeking safety and a new beginning for their loved ones.
“Ireland can play its part on the frontline, but we also need to do more at home.”