Written answers

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

European Union

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent)
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49. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions Ireland and the European Union are taking to support political prisoners in Belarus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56459/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Ireland has condemned the unjust detention of political prisoners in Belarus. We are committed to keeping the situation in the country high on the international agenda. It is unacceptable that the current regime detains individuals without due cause or process. Freedom of expression is a core element of civil society space which is a leading foreign policy priority for Ireland.

I know many members of the Oireachtas have 'adopted' political prisoners and I commend them for maintaining awareness of their plight.

Ireland has raised this and related issues at multiple international fora, including at informal meetings of United Nations Security Council members, sponsoring “Arria formula” discussions on Belarus. These are important ways to put additional pressure on the Lukashenko regime to adhere to their international obligations and commitments.

Ireland has also played a supporting role at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where a successful EU-led resolution granted an investigative mandate to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to examine human rights violations. Along with our EU partners, we also secured a mandate renewal for the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

Finally, Ireland is co-sponsoring a fifth package of sanctions against entities and individuals complicit in the Lukashenko regime’s human rights violations.

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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52. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had an engagement with the European Union on the migrant situation in Belarus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56572/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I have had extensive engagements with my European Union counterparts and with the relevant EU institutions regarding the situation of migrants at the Belarusian border over recent weeks.

On Monday, myself and other EU Foreign Affairs Ministers agreed at the Foreign Affairs Council to broaden the listings criteria for a fifth package of sanctions. The EU will now be able to target individuals and entities organising or contributing to activities by the Lukashenko regime that facilitate illegal crossing of the EU's external borders. Ireland had co-sponsored this package which shows our solidarity with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, and with those trapped at the border. This follows the EU’s progressive introduction of restrictions against the Lukashenko regime since November 2020.

Ireland also supports the European institutions in their outreach to countries of origin to stem the flow of irregular migration at source. In August, following outreach from High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell Fontelles, Iraq agreed to suspend flights to Belarus. In recent days, some airlines have made commitments that will effectively ban access to their flights by potential irregular migrants. I am hopeful that in the coming weeks the EU's continuing engagement will result in a diminishing flow of migrants to Belarus.

We have also engaged at the EU level to address the humanitarian situation at the Belarus-Poland border. Ireland has expressed its support for the deployment of experts from Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, to the border region. I also believe that international organisations and independent monitors and journalists should be allowed to access both sides of the border

I am grateful to the Lithuanian government who facilitated Minister of State Byrne's recent visit to Lithuanian-Belarussian border. As part of that visit, Minister Byrne was able to view some migrant camps that have been established by the Lithuanian Government, to meet with the Lithuanian Border Guards and with the Lithuanian Red Cross, which this year has received a contribution of €100,000 from Irish Aid.

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