Sinn Féin’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Seán Crowe TD, challenged the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Cristos Styliandes, at a meeting of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee today on the EU’s insufficient and harmful reactions to the refugee crisis.

Speaking after the Committee meeting, Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“The two-year plan, which was launched by the EU in September 2015 and aimed to resettle 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU states, has failed to deliver. At the beginning of September this year just over 1,000 people left Italy and 3,493 people left Greece.

“Ireland committed to taking a total of 4,000 displaced persons by way of resettlement- particularly from Lebanon- and relocation- from Greece and Italy, but so far only 486 refugees have been resettled and only 69 Syrians from Greece have been relocated to Ireland and 0 from Italy.

“Commissioner Styliandes told the Committee that he thought the situation was better than one year ago, and that this was because of the EU-Turkey agreement. I strongly disagreed with him. Just last weekend boats from European navies and humanitarian NGOs rescued 6,055 people in the Mediterranean Sea. That is the scale of the challenge facing frontline countries.

“I also pointed out that the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has said that not one Syrian returned from Greece has been granted any temporary protection status, despite the ‘formal guarantees’ under the EU’s deal with Ankara. Turkey is also supposed to allow the UN agency access to facilities where the returning Syrians are temporarily sheltered, but access to the centre has been blocked since a failed military coup in July.

“I fear that the EU is following this failed and dangerous model to create similar agreements with other countries. For example the EU is seeking to send people back to war-torn Afghanistan as a part of a broader policy to return people who refuse to be deported voluntarily.

“The EU needs to urgently change its approach to the refugee crisis, as its current approach is failing to assist and relieve the suffering of refugees and their families.”