Thursday, 18 November 2021
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
202. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he can take through the European Union or United Nations to address the refugee crisis in eastern Europe; if these matters can be dealt with at the highest level to ensure the maintenance of basic humanitarian standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56777/21]
203. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which he can activate the European Union and the United Nations to address the issue of refugees including women and children currently remaining in life threatening situations on the borders of Poland and the Baltic states; his views on whether it is possible to mount an international campaign to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56778/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 and 203 together.
Ireland condemns the regime of Alexander Lukashenko for its exploitation of migrants for political purposes.
At the November Foreign Affairs Council meeting, EU Foreign Ministers discussed the escalation in the crisis along the EU’s borders with Belarus. We took swift action and agreed to broaden the listings criteria for sanctions on the Belarusian regime.
This broader listing will target individuals and entities organising or contributing to activities by the Lukashenko regime that facilitate illegal crossing of the EU's external borders.
Ireland also supports EU outreach to countries of origin to stem the flow of migrants to Belarus, by communicating the considerable risks and dangers associated with facilitating irregular migration. I am hopeful that in the coming weeks the EU's continuing engagement will result in a diminishing flow of migrants to Belarus.
While the current humanitarian crisis has been orchestrated by the Belarusian regime, it is important that EU Member States respect and uphold the right to international protection in line with obligations under the Geneva Conventions. Ireland has expressed its support for the deployment of experts from Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, to the border region. International organisations, aid workers and independent monitors and journalists should be allowed to access both sides of the border, in our view.
Ireland has repeatedly demonstrated our solidarity with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, and with those trapped at the border. Just three weeks ago, Minister of State Byrne visited the Lithuanian-Belarussian border, accompanied by members of the Lithuanian Government. As part of that visit, he viewed some migrant camps that have been established by the Lithuanian Government, met with the Lithuanian Border Guards and also with the Lithuanian Red Cross, which, this year, has received a contribution of €100,000 from Irish Aid to help provide relief to the migrants.
At the request of Ireland, France and Estonia, the three EU members of the UN Security Council, the Council held an AOB discussion on Belarus on 11 November, focused on the ongoing migration issue there. Ireland expressed concern about the deteriorating situation at the EU-Belarus border, condemned the instrumentalisation of migrants for political purposes by the Belarusian authorities, and highlighted the need to prevent a humanitarian crisis unfolding. The EU members of the Council, joined by Norway, the UK, and the US, as well as incoming Council member Albania, held a press stakeout after the meeting, stressing that all actions must be guided by fundamental values, especially regarding the protection of migrants’ human rights.