Press Release: Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition alarm at ending of Naval rescue mission in Mediterranean

  • Date: 01/04/2019
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

Responding to reports that the Irish Naval presence in the Mediterranean will cease and Operation Sophia will be downscaled and end in six months, the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition (IRMC) today expressed serious concerns. The Coalition comprises 23 organisations that seek to advance the rights and dignity of people on the move and those in need of international protection.

Irish Refugee Council

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, the current convenor of the Coalition, said:
“While the number of people trying to cross the Mediterranean has decreased, the risk of death has increased. We have commended the Irish navy presence in the Mediterranean, which has rescued more than 18,000 people, and also Ireland’s acceptance of 58 people from different NGO rescue boats. We call on the Irish Government to try to work with other EU governments with a view to maintaining the presence of the Irish navy and to continue but improve Operation Sophia. Moreover, we need a complete overhaul of the EU approach to this issue: real solidarity with countries like Greece and Italy, safe and legal routes to protection, planned contingency for rescue boats and ceasing push back to Libya. This is an opportunity for Ireland to lead on these issues.”

Amnesty International Ireland

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said:
“This is an outrageous abdication of EU governments responsibilities. Having already used every excuse in the book to banish NGO rescue boats from the Mediterranean, and having already stopped carrying out rescues several months ago, EU governments are now removing their own ships, leaving no-one to save the lives of women, men and children in peril. EU governments will continue to use aerial surveillance to alert the Libyan Coast Guard when refugees and migrants are spotted at sea, so they can be taken back to Libya, despite knowing that people there are arbitrarily detained and exposed to widespread torture, rape, killings and exploitation.”

ActionAid Ireland

Siobhán McGee, Chief Executive Officer of ActionAid Ireland said
“The 1951 Refugee Convention, in the wake of World War II, established the right to special protection for those fleeing persecution. Ireland as an EU leader must uphold this fundamental principle, rather than aiding and abetting the further persecution of refugees. ActionAid’s experience in both the home countries and receiving countries of migrants tells us that walls, barbed wires and guns will not stop desperate people from seeking a better future. Ireland’s response must find solutions based on the legal frameworks and human rights principles to which we are already committed; instead of rowing back, Ireland can and should do more, along with other EU leaders, to increase resources for the real integration of migrants, who have so much to offer our societies”.

Picture: Members of the public joined a coalition of NGOs on Dublin’s Sandymount Strand Sunday 13th September 2015.

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