Thursday, 11 July 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I too express our sympathy to and solidarity with the families and friends of Noel Whelan and Brendan Grace.
More than 2,000 children are in US migrant detention centres. They have been separated from their parents and crammed together in massively overcrowded warehouses. In many cases, they are held for weeks in very cold temperatures, with the lights on 24 hours a day and without adequate access to medical care, sanitation, soap, water or food. It is the grossest, most inhumane and depraved expression of President Trump's anti-immigrant, racist policies. The centres meet the definition of a concentration camp. It is the mass incarceration of people, in this case children, without trial. A lawyer recently inspected a facility in Texas and stated:
[The children] were filthy dirty, there was mucus on their shirts, the shirts were dirty. We saw breast milk on the shirts. There was food on the shirts, and the pants as well. They told us that they were hungry. They told us that some of them had not showered or had not showered until the day or two days before we arrived. Many of them described that they only brushed their teeth once [...] The guards are asking the younger children or the older children, “Who wants to take care of this little boy? Who wants to take of this little girl?” and they’ll bring in a two-year-old, a three-year-old, a four-year-old. And then the littlest kids are expected to be taken care of by the older kids, but then some of the oldest children lose interest in it, and little children get handed off to other children. And sometimes we hear about the littlest children being alone by themselves on the floor.
This was a pre-announced visit and one can only imagine the circumstances where there is no warning of such a visit. It is absolutely heartbreaking stuff and it is not an accident. It is being done in an extremely conscious and open way by the Trump Administration to discourage asylum seekers from coming to the United States.
The conditions those people are fleeing from countries in Central America include vicious narcotics gangs, collapsed economies and ecological disaster. To a very large degree, these are the result of the policies of the United States, which has ruthlessly dominated that region for 150 years. That includes dozens of military interventions, support for military coups and the implementation of the so-called Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA.
There is a growing movement of protest targeted against these migrant detention camps. People like Megan Rapinoe, the United States women's soccer team captain, have spoken out against the message from Donald Trump of excluding people. In the most powerful recent message, workers at the Wayfair furniture company in the United States took the lead by walking off the job because their company refused to stop doing business with these for-profit detention camps. That is what solidarity looks like and these are the steps needed to shut down the camps and take down Trump.
The question is what the Government will do about this. A year ago we passed a motion unanimously in the Dáil describing this treatment as inhumane, undignified and unwarranted, and we called for these practices to be reversed immediately. What has been done by the Government and how has it spoken out about this? Was the matter raised by the Taoiseach with Donald Trump or was he able to come to Ireland to play a game of golf while being responsible for these conditions at home, including the death of seven children in the so-called care of the United States immigration agencies? Will Mike Pence be able to do the same in September and will this Government continue with mild hand-wringing and criticism when they are not here but grovelling subservience when its representatives meet officials of the United States Administration?