Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 5 March 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence
Refugee Situation in Syria: Discussion
Mr. Niall O'Keeffe:
On the last point raised by the Senator, I am unsure of the reason for it. The process is managed by the Department of Justice and Equality.
Reference was made to the peace process. The constitutional committee has been established. It has run into difficult territory as its progress is very slow. It requires the active involvement of and continuous pushing by the international community. It has the support of Turkey, Russia, Iran and other countries which are strong supporters of and have significant influence with the Syrian Government. It is to be hoped that they will continue to be able to apply pressure.
On the role of the European Union in supporting that peace process, the EU must realise the kind of influence it has and use that influence to bring people around the table. The blueprint for the peace process is there in terms of the constitutional committee which was established last year by all the main parties, including those in opposition, in government and others. It is the only blueprint that exists, so all members of the European Union, including Ireland, must use their influence to bring the various parties around the table to participate in the committee.
Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked about the safe environment existing in Syria and the significant amount of construction necessary in the country over the coming years. Obviously, the country has been devastated by the conflict. The support that Trócaire, GOAL and Concern provide to refugees and displaced people very much considers their safety and security in the context of a potential return to their homes. It is not just about whether they have food, water and so on; it is very much about their safety and security when they return home. They should not have to return to a particular part of the country but, rather, should be entitled to return to the area from which they originally came. They need safety and security, but those are very difficult to achieve in the current environment. Indeed, it is difficult to see how they will be achieved in the future. Presumably, those issues must be addressed at a very high level in the peace process. It will be necessary to establish an inclusive peace process that will eventually create a safe environment for people to return home in a voluntary, dignified and safe way. The international community must apply pressure where it can in order to ensure we arrive at some sort of peace process.