Tuesday, 11 July 2017
Order of Business
Paul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
I second my colleague, Senator Craughwell's proposal to invite the Minister to the House regarding Operation Sophia. I was also going to raise this issue and our party's grave concerns. Operation Sophia is an EU military mission under the guise of the Common Security and Defence Policy, CSDP, of the European Union. The primary stated objective is to target and stop gangs using vessels for human trafficking, mainly from Libya. It has, however, a much greater remit than that. Phase two, which is now under way, includes the training of Libyan coastguards to capture refugees who are fleeing their war-torn countries, and throwing them in to so-called migrant detention centres. It has a third phase that would mandate the participating countries, if necessary, to take military action in Libyan waters and on Libyan soil.
These detention centres have been proven and documented to violate the human rights of those imprisoned in them. The Libyan coastguards who are being trained have been guilty not only of abusing refugees, but also of firing live rounds into overloaded boats of refugees. Pushing refugees who seek asylum into such centres by military force is a human rights violation and morally disgusting. We should play no role in this.
Currently, Naval Service missions in the Mediterranean Sea operate under a purely humanitarian search and rescue mission remit. Over the past two years Naval Service personnel have rescued almost 16,000 people in the south of the Mediterranean Sea. This is outstanding work, of which we can be proud. That is, however, as far as our intervention must go. We cannot allow the EU to undermine Ireland's neutrality and we must stand against any further militarisation of the EU and any forerunner to the creation of an EU army. Operation Sophia is a military response to a humanitarian problem and it will not solve anything. We must continue our search and rescue missions and significantly increase the relocation and settlement of refugees in Ireland. I call on the Minister of State to come to the House immediately to debate this.