Ceisteanna - Questions

EU Meetings

Micheál Martin

Question:

1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has met with or spoken recently to the Chancellor of Germany, Ms Angela Merkel, and if he discussed the migrant issue with her; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9985/16]

Micheál Martin

Question:

2. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach his views on the recent resignation of the pro-European Turkish Prime Minister, Mr Ahmet Davutoğlu, and the impact this will have on the European Union migrant deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9988/16]

Micheál Martin

Question:

3. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the status of the last European Council meeting, including if he contributed on any issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9989/16]

Micheál Martin

Question:

4. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has had bilateral meetings with European leaders since the start of March 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9990/16]

Gerry Adams

Question:

5. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach to report on the European Union meeting of Heads of State on 7 March 2016 with Turkey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10019/16]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

6. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he raised the issue of Ireland's housing and homelessness crisis at the most recent meeting of the European Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10150/16]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

7. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach the discussions he had with the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, at the most recent meeting of the European Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10151/16]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

8. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach the issues he will raise at the meeting of the European Council in June 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10155/16]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, together.

I met Chancellor Merkel at the European Council on 17 and 18 March, and while I spoke to her, we did not have a formal bilateral meeting. I last held such a meeting with the Chancellor when I visited Berlin on 3 July 2014 following her visit to Dublin that March. I have had no scheduled bilateral meetings with my European counterparts since the start of March, although I did of course see and engage with them at the 7 March summit with Turkey and at the later European Council meeting of 17 and 18 March. Several of them have written to me since my re-election as Taoiseach.

As to the joint statement, the implementation of the measures agreed between the EU and Turkey in March continues, although this process poses challenges for all sides. In assessing whether the measures are working, it is worth recalling that the core intention of the joint statement was to break the so-called business model of people smugglers profiting from the suffering of the vulnerable and to stop migrants attempting to cross the Aegean Sea. The latest reports indicate the numbers using this migratory route have reduced very considerably since the implementation of the measures began, which is to be welcomed.

However, the realities of dealing with a crisis this profound and complex cannot be ignored, and in some areas implementation of the agreed measures has been very slow. I share the recent assessment of the European Commission and others that progress on the relocation and resettlement of asylum seekers is unsatisfactory. From Ireland's perspective, in September last year the Government established the Irish refugee protection programme, under which we have agreed to accept 4,000 people in need of international protection. This allowed us to opt in to various EU measures in solidarity with our partners.

I am pleased that we are on track to meet our resettlement commitment. To date, 263 people have arrived in Ireland and the balance of 257 individuals to be admitted under the programme have been selected following a mission to Lebanon in January and should arrive in Ireland by the end of September. Progress on relocation has been much slower. Only ten people have arrived in Ireland to date in spite of our best efforts to fulfil our overall commitment. These delays are due to factors outside our control, in particular the establishment of emergency hotspots in Greece and Italy, and have been experienced by all other member states. We are working closely with our EU partners to address these issues. The delivery of commitments in regard to international and European law is rightly undergoing scrutiny and there is close co-operation between the European Union and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Member states on the front line of dealing with the crisis remain under pressure. It is essential that all partner countries assist them in managing the practical realities of supporting the significant number of migrants and refugees who have arrived in their countries. To that end, Ireland's contribution to the overall response, in terms of humanitarian assistance and technical support, are important.

On the wider situation in Turkey, recent developments there have given rise to heightened concerns about respect for human rights, freedom of the media and the rule of law. I also note the resignation earlier this month of the Turkish Prime Minister. It remains to be seen what impact these development might have on the delivery of commitments under the EU and Turkey March statement, including visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens entering the Schengen area.

Therefore, while some of the measures have had an immediate and positive impact, it is important to maintain momentum if the overall package is to make a long-term contribution to tackling the migration crisis throughout the entire region. We also know that pressures continue on other migratory reroutes. I was very pleased that the Government agreed last month to the deployment of the LE Róisín in support of the humanitarian search and rescue efforts of the Italian authorities in the Mediterranean, repeating the valiant efforts of our Naval Service last year which rescued 8,592 men, women and children. The LE Róisín will spend ten weeks in the Mediterranean assisting the Italian authorities. She commenced search and rescue missions on 12 May 2016 and since that date has rescued almost 400 men and women.

On behalf of the people, I extend my appreciation and warm wishes to her and her crew for the duration of her mission.

The migration crisis rightly and necessarily remains an issue of the highest priority. There will be a further discussion of these issues at the June European Council and I will report back to the House afterwards.

I made a comprehensive statement to the House on 22 March on the meetings of the European Council in February and March and on the two EU summits with the Turkish Prime Minister, both in March. The conclusions agreed in February and in March have been laid before the House. To give a brief recap, the two main areas addressed at the meetings were the EU-UK relationship, and the discussions with Turkey on the migration crisis.

In February, the European Council also addressed a range of economic issues. There was a commitment to further implementation of all aspects of the Single Market. That includes delivering on the Commission's Single Market and Capital Markets Union strategies but also, on a point which is key for this country, and at our insistence, on the Digital Single Market. Conclusions were adopted on Syria and Libya.

The European Council on 18 March also adopted conclusions on climate and energy, recalling the need to reinforce energy security and to sign and ratify the Paris agreement as soon as possible, as well as on agriculture and on the steel sector.

I met Prime Minister Cameron bilaterally at the European Council of 18 to 19 February. Following my re-election as Taoiseach on 6 May, he telephoned me to express his congratulations. I said that I would do whatever I could usefully do to help in the run-up to the UK referendum on EU membership on 23 June. I expect to meet him soon, when our schedules permit.

The issue of Ireland’s housing and homelessness crisis was not on the agenda of the March European Council. I did not raise it at the meeting, therefore, nor is it generally the practice of the European Council to discuss domestic issues in the 28 member states.

The current draft agenda for the June European Council, as it stands, includes migration; jobs, growth and investment; external relations; and the outcome of the UK referendum, which will have taken place five days earlier. The last item will feature more or less prominently depending on the result.

The European Council will review the situation on migration in all its aspects. In particular, it will look at the external aspects of migration, assess progress in strengthening EU external borders, and take stock of the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement.

On jobs, growth and investment, the European Council will endorse the country-specific recommendations as they stand following Council consideration and conclude the 2016 European semester, assess the first results of the European Fund for Strategic Investments, EFSI, and draw operational conclusions for its future, endorse an agenda for the implementation of all aspects of the Single Market with a view to exploiting in full its untapped growth and productivity potential, address the issue of economic and monetary union, and take stock of ongoing action to fight tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.

On external relations, the European Council is likely to discuss developments in a number of countries. There may well also be an exchange on EU-NATO co-operation in advance of the NATO summit in Warsaw in July. I will, as usual, make statements to the House both before and after the meeting.

Might I suggest, to be helpful, that we would take statements from each of the three offering Deputies and then go back to the Taoiseach for a response? Are Members happy with that arrangement? We might get a second round of supplementaries if we do it that way. Are Members happy with the arrangement?

Is the intention that we would make general comments?

Yes, each of the three Deputies would make general comments and the Taoiseach will reply and then we will go back to each Member for a second round of questions.

Is it the case that the Taoiseach would respond to the three of us together?

Yes, but given the Taoiseach's-----

Given his dexterity at answering those questions he wishes to answer, he might forget to answer the ones he might not want to deal with.

If it is not agreed, it is not agreed.

No, we will give it a shot. I only speak in jest.

A Cheann Comhairle, if the Deputies want, they could make a general statement and then I will answer individual questions from them if they wish.

There will be a round of three. Deputy Martin has the floor.

There are approximately four items covered.

The Deputies can make a statement, then ask a general question or two and then I will take questions individually.

Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, cover the European Council, Angela Merkel, Turkey, migration and housing. There are a lot of issues involved. We must be fair to everybody. I am open to the approach outlined but the discussion could become very general.

One of the defining challenges of our time across Europe is the growth of populist extremism. The ideals of free democracies are under attack and democracy generally is under very significant attack across the globe. Democracies are under attack in Europe in particular. The defeat of the far right candidate in the Austrian election is extremely welcome but it went far too close. The European Union is flawed and it often fails to apply its own founding principles. Those who spend their time attacking it for that reason ignore the much worse, more extensive and more aggressive policies of other countries. Will the Taoiseach give an assurance that he will oppose any efforts to soften the European Union's position in defence of Ukrainian sovereignty and if he will support increased support for civil society and human rights organisations operating in countries bordering the European Union, many of which are under a lot of pressure?

I welcome one development in recent years, namely, the European Endowment for Democracy which supports democracy and human rights activists in many countries. Unfortunately, Ireland is not a contributor to the fund and in a recent vote in the European Parliament, Irish Members of the main far left group either opposed or refused to support the fund. Will the Taoiseach agree to reconsider Irish funding for the European Endowment for Democracy?

Discussions on the restructuring of Greece's debts are still ongoing with the European Union. There is no doubt whatsoever that Greece needs a significant improvement in terms of its debt, in both the duration and cost of the debt. Given how much Ireland has benefited from previous deals negotiated between the European Union and Greece, will the Taoiseach confirm that Ireland is supportive of Greece and is not just blindly following the damaging hardline stance of some of the other countries?

I listened carefully to the Taoiseach's comments on Turkey. Question No. 2 relates to the replacement of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutolu and a clear change in both culture and behaviour within the Turkish political world. When we discussed the outcome of recent summits, I said the deal with Turkey, in particular relating to the migrant crisis, is not one of which we can be proud, and it is not one we can be confident will stay in place. The Taoiseach referred to recent developments. In recent days there has been a dramatic disimprovement in the political situation with a move to prosecute the majority of opposition MPs, thereby giving the ruling party a majority big enough to change the constitution. Many of the alleged crimes involve so-called "giving offence to the President". This is a final move effectively to criminalise dissent. We must end the pretence that this is behaviour compatible in any way with democratic practices or that it is acceptable for a candidate country. I want the Taoiseach to call this in a very direct and straight way. He said in his reply that it remains to be seen what will happen. It is quite obvious what is happening in Turkey and that has been the case for some time. There has been a move away from the democratic norms and values that the European Union has always said had to underpin any relationship with Turkey, and in particular in terms of visa liberalisation to the Schengen area and in terms of opening a negotiating chapter pertaining to Turkey's application for European Union membership. The European Union negotiated at a very weak moment for the Union in terms of its incapacity to deal with the migration crisis. As the Taoiseach said in his reply, the European Union is now dealing with a regime that has a lot of questions to answer in terms of the very basic issues pertaining to human rights, the freedom of the media and the rule of law. What is the European Union going to do about it and, more important, what is the Government's position on developments within Turkey and, in particular, on the recently negotiated deal with Turkey?

In terms of the migrant crisis, the stories emanating from Calais are appalling. It is an absolute scandal the condition in which thousands of people are living in the Port of Calais alone, notwithstanding the wider issue of migrants coming across Europe.

In the Irish context, the Taoiseach stated we had accepted or agreed to take 4,000 people. He should correct me if I am wrong and might clarify this point again but he stated that only ten people have arrived.

In resettlement, yes.

In resettlement. Is it the position that approximately 200 had arrived prior to that? Yet the Taoiseach stated we are on target for the figure of 4,000 people. He might outline to me whether somewhere within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Justice and Equality or wherever there is an actual timetable or programme putting flesh on the bones of the language, the rhetoric and the commitments that get articulated consistently.

Is it known when, where and how all of this will happen?

I wish to concentrate on what is the biggest crisis since the Second World War and on the response of the European Union and the Government to it. The International Organization for Migration, IOM, estimates that between the beginning of 2016 and 25 April, a total of 196,325 emigrants and refugees have arrived in Europe, mostly by sea. This is a huge number of people who have landed in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain. During the same period, 1,359 people died or were lost at sea. That number is the size of the population of an average small town and the IOM estimates that, last year, more than 1 million people arrived. One core response to this humanitarian crisis has been the EU-Turkey agreement. Sinn Féin has been clear and has criticised this agreement. It is against and has spoken out against this agreement and I have raised it here many times with the Taoiseach since it was brought into being. Turkey is a country with a deplorable human rights record and a history of discriminating against minorities. As it is clear that Turkey is not a safe country of origin, the European Union should not be deporting vulnerable people to that place. Human Rights Watch has stated the deportations that already have occurred were rushed, chaotic and violated the rights of those deported. Oxfam has accused the EU of trading human beings for political concessions. Here is the rub. The Government went along with this measure. This is not something distant that is happening away over there; the Government agreed to it.

The Government announced the plan to take in 4,000 refugees and Sinn Féin supported this measure. However, only a handful of people, a family of ten, have been relocated in this State under this scheme with 31 people expected to arrive in the coming weeks. In the North, as part of our involvement in the British Government's vulnerable persons relocation scheme, 108 people have been relocated. While I do not wish to compare these two states on the island, there is a disparity. It is not good enough in that 51 people came last December, while 75 arrived in the Six Counties at the end of April. There are more to come and arrangements have been made for the next group to arrive in the coming months. However, the response of the State and the EU in the face of this major appalling human tragedy has been disgraceful. Given our history and our memory of coffin ships and of forced exile, the Government's response is shameful. It is much like the ongoing treatment of citizens in direct provision across the State. These men, women and children are fleeing devastating war and oppression to get asylum in the EU and yet, with smiles and handshakes, the EU has decided that vast numbers of them will be sent back to Turkey. The Government should demand that the EU agreement with Turkey be suspended. I appeal to the Taoiseach to do this. We should continue to press for real support for the humanitarian work that is being carried out in refugee camps. We also should increase urgently the relocation of refugees here and should continue the work for humanitarian solutions. The people, the ordinary citizens, are much further ahead than the Government in this regard as there have been 800 pledges to the Irish Red Cross to house incoming refugees. More than 60% of these were offers to share accommodation, while 30% offered vacant houses and apartments.

I will conclude by noting that another consequence of the EU's deal with Turkey is that people are starting once again to attempt to cross from Libya to Italy, which is a much more dangerous sea journey than is the journey from Turkey to Greece. Members should think about how in this month alone the United Nations has estimated that 500 people have drowned. That is going on and tomorrow it will be more, while the day after that it will be more again. I welcome the work of the Irish naval vessels and commend the men and women who work on these vessels. They are a credit to the service and I welcome in particular the deployment of the LE Róisín, which was sent there at the beginning of May. On 16 May, its crew rescued 365 people who were in difficulties, which is wonderful work. However, I warn that we should have no part in the military actions that are being contemplated, such as the destruction of boats. No such action should be part of our remit and instead we should do what these men and women have done so well, namely, to save people on these difficult and dangerous journeys. I ask the Taoiseach to raise these concerns, which are shared by many other Members of the Dáil and within the EU itself. I appeal to the Taoiseach to demand that the EU agreement with Turkey be suspended.

I also wish to raise what I believe to be the utterly shameful approach of the European Union when it comes to dealing with migrants attempting to get into the European Union. Since the year 2000, some 22,000 people have died while attempting to get into Europe and that number has escalated dramatically. The blood of those innocent people is on the hands of European Union and every single leader, including the Taoiseach, in so far as they have co-operated in developing the policy of fortress Europe, the most shameful example of which is the EU-Turkey agreement. To be absolutely clear about this agreement, the European Convention on Human Rights states that "Collective expulsion of aliens is prohibited". There is no equivocation; it is prohibited but the Taoiseach and other European leaders have signed an agreement that states that "All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey". Ireland has signed an agreement that commits explicitly to the collective expulsion of aliens, which is counter to the European Convention on Human Rights. Consequently, we are engaging in what is, in human rights terms, illegal action that from a moral point of view is shameful and murderous. There simply is no other way to describe it and this situation is getting worse. All the measures, including Operation Triton despite the humanitarian gloss put on it, are about push-back. The policy now is one of push-back, that is, preventing them from getting in and the Taoiseach stated as much in his opening comments when he spoke of stemming the flow of migration.

That is the policy now - push them back and if they drown, tough luck. They are drowning in huge numbers. The more Europe ramps up its border controls, which it is doing, the more people will die.

What is particularly hypocritical about all this is that the number of people who are trying to cross in this manner represents a tiny proportion of the number of so-called illegals in Europe. I think the term "illegals" is shameful because, in my opinion, no human being is illegal. However, in so far as one defines illegality when it comes to human beings, the vast majority of so-called illegals are people who arrive on planes with work visas. When their work visas run out, they become technically illegal. Their numbers dwarf the number of people who are trying to cross from desperate situations in Syria and north Africa, yet all the focus is on them.

Deputy Adams mentioned the numbers that have come in as 190,000. Some 110,000 people came into this country alone in 2007, which was almost as many as the so-called flood trying to get into Europe. It is not a flood. The crisis is created by the EU's push-back fortress policy. The numbers are absolutely tiny but political cynicism and self-interest are killing those immigrants. It has to stop. The EU-Turkey deal is utterly shameful in that regard. We should demand that the deal be suspended and abandoned, particularly given the utterly shameful human rights record of Turkey in the treatment of its own population.

Did the Taoiseach raise the housing and homelessness emergency with his EU counterparts? In what has to be the supreme exercise in irony and hypocrisy, the EU Commission staff working document recently criticised the Government here for failing to invest sufficiently in infrastructure. That is unbelievable seeing as it was the same troika that demanded and insisted on savaging the capital investment programme as part of the EU-IMF bailout. Nonetheless, they do point to the fact that despite the Government's claim that it is going to do something about housing, the capital investment programme this year will be less than next year's. With all the talk from the Minister, Deputy Coveney, about dealing with the housing and homelessness crisis, he is still using the same figures in terms of the direct provision of council housing as his predecessor, Deputy Kelly. There is no change.

Will the Taoiseach take the advice of the Housing Finance Agency which said that we need to significantly ramp up the level of investment in housing? If that requires increasing our debt or deficit we need to go to the European Union and say that it is right, that we have an infrastructural deficit, specifically in housing, and we want the fiscal rules suspended, or with flexibility in them, so that we can borrow the necessary money to develop a housing programme that will deal with what is an emergency. Is the Taoiseach making that argument with the European Union about our need for a dramatic ramping up of investment in social housing?

I call the Taoiseach to reply. There were a lot of questions there.

Yes, indeed.

Hopefully we will get back for a second brief round from everyone.

I think we need to look at the structure of the way we do questions here. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his intervention.

I agree with Deputy Martin that the growth of populism has created significant challenges for democracy in all its forms in many countries. I see that reflected in the arguments around the European Council table. We will strongly defend the right of Ukraine to its sovereignty and have done so at every opportunity. We will equally support and stand by the sovereignty claims of neighbouring countries. Many of these, as Deputy Martin is aware, are under pressure for a variety of reasons, particularly since the annexation of Crimea by President Putin.

I will look at the question of the endowment for democracy. I am not sure of the reasons for the decision that was made here. Ireland is and will continue to be very supportive of Greece. I have spoken with the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Tsipras, on every occasion at the European Council meetings. Obviously we have come through a pretty torrid time ourselves. I am glad that an agreement was reached at the ECOFIN meeting in respect of Greece. The Greek people face a challenge for the next 20 years, but at least they are now beginning to move in the right direction and pay their way.

Deputy Martin mentioned human rights in Turkey. It has been raised by me and other leaders at the European Council meeting in the presence of the former Turkish Prime Minister when he attended that Council. The central point of the argument was that the core of this problem is in Syria with the Assad regime. As a result of that and the war that is going on there, we have had this massive disruption into southern Lebanon, Turkey and across the Mediterranean. That is the cause of it all. When one considers the different forces globally, Russia and Iran are supportive of the Assad regime, while the United States and Europe support the opposition. The difficulty is compounded when leaders say that 200,000 people have arrived on their shores in a short time and want to move through to Germany.

The main intention of all those people was to move to Germany. As has been pointed out, many of them are professionals moving with their families across different countries. I understand that 10,000 children have gone missing. What is happening in Calais is appalling. We are not part of the Schengen area, though we voluntarily made our contribution both for resettlement and relocation. They set up the so-called hot spots in Greece and Italy, but when people arrived there they tended to leave immediately with the intention of getting to Germany. That is one of the reasons only a very small number of people were able to be approved to come here. I will get the figures as to where we are on that schedule. As regards the difference between resettlement and relocation, and the 4,000 we said we would take, I will provide Deputies with more accurate information in that respect.

The real argument at the European Council was because of the endless flood of people coming from Turkey, in particular, due to its proximity to Greece. Be they from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria or elsewhere, these people have paid large amounts of money to get on inflatable rafts. It is fine until one hears the Prime Minister saying that they are loaded onto these boats and as soon as they are out on the sea and the first ship appears, in many cases the inflatables are knifed and sunk so they end up in the water and have to be rescued. That is why there is a NATO operation under way off Turkey. It has been successful to an extent but not in the way it should be.

The reason for the European deal with Turkey in the first place was because they wanted to focus on dealing with people smugglers.

One can deal with them in an effective way by patrolling offshore while being able to return people entering Europe illegally to where they came from, whereas others who have arrived in Turkey and are based in camps but who wish to be relocated to a European country have whatever the categorisation might be to say they want to be legitimately recognised as refugees or asylum seekers and they want to live and go to Europe. Those who have paid money to people smugglers and are sent across the short distance to the Greek islands do not have the same intent, whether they are in a camp in Turkey or wherever.

When the Turks came with their requirements for acceleration of the accession agreement, liberalisation of visas and a further €3 billion by the end of 2017, the money being paid by the EU was to go towards the provision of school, health, maternity and other facilities in the camps. That expenditure was to be supervised by the EU. In other words, it is not the case that a cheque has been paid into the Turkish exchequer, with everybody just leaving it at that.

Deputy Boyd Barrett made a point about the agreement in the context of the European Court of Human Rights. People were conscious of eliminating people smuggling, which is difficult to do. The vast majority of refugees intend to get to Germany. Chancellor Merkel made it perfectly clear that she wanted to accommodate as many as possible in Germany, but they had to go through other countries to get there. When Prime Minister Orbán put up the first fence in Hungary and others followed, with difficulties arising because of the sheer weight of numbers coming through Austria, this exemplified the point made by the Deputy about populism on the right wing in respect of the numbers of migrants. In 1939, when the Sudetenland was invaded, one ship with 800 or 900 refugees was sent to the US and turned back. Another was sent to Turkey and most of those on board drowned. The position here is appalling, but the central feature is the war in Syria. The vast majority of Syrian people who have been interviewed would love to go back to their own country. They are educated, intelligent, sophisticated people and they want to live their lives normally, but the bombing patterns by the opposition and so on have destroyed much of the country.

There will be no military action in respect of the LE Róisín. I have been clear on this. The Naval Service works in tandem with the Italian authorities and the function of the men and women on the ship is purely humanitarian - search and rescue. They follow in the wake of the other ships, which have rescued more than 8,000 people.

The Deputy is correct in respect of the numbers who have drowned. Many of them paid big money on the basis of trusting people that they would be brought to Europe for a better life, and that, obviously, did not turn out to be the case. Until the root cause of all this is addressed, there will not be a sense of permanent peace. I understand a couple of hundred thousand people on the shores of Libya want to cross into Europe as well but there is no plan at all for them. Many of them have travelled from Mali, Somalia and Eritrea up through the Horn of Africa. The Deputy referred to the 110,000 refugees who came to Ireland in 2007. Many of them were from EU member states and were entitled to come here under the freedom of movement principle, while some came from countries outside the Union.

The agreement between the Union and Turkey will not be suspended. It was carefully considered from a legal point of view as not being in contravention of the ECHR, to which the Deputy referred, because there are people on the Turkish mainland who have been there for quite a while and they want to legitimately seek their right to come to Europe, whereas others being sent across the short distance to the Greek islands were loaded onto boats by people smugglers and told they were out of there. While others have a longer-term ambition of coming to Europe, the reason the agreement came about in the first place was to eliminate the so-called business model of people taking big money to smuggle refugees into Europe.

I referred earlier to the fact that issues of great importance domestically are not generally raised at Council meetings and, for that reason, the housing crisis here was not the subject of discussion formally at a meeting. However, the Deputy can take it that we have set up the Cabinet sub-committee. We have had two meetings and next week we will have a presentation from the Departments of Finance, to be followed by the Departments of Social Protection, Health and Transport, Tourism and Sport. We will have a comprehensive strategy with the facilities provided in law and through whatever are the requirements for the Minister for housing, planning and local government to deal with this. Supply is the key. I note the Deputy's point about the capital programme. It is extensive, covering many years, and will cost €42 billion, €27 billion of which will be provided by the State, with a review in 2017-18. The Government's greatest priority is to deal with the housing crisis. It is not satisfactory in many forms. Other member states have national problems that they would like to discuss at Council meetings as well but, generally, the agenda is focused on a more European level. We will deal with the issue here and report to the House on the progress we are making.

I thank the Taoiseach for his lengthy reply, but I did not hear his views on what is happening in Turkey and his assessment of it in terms of the erosion of democratic norms through the harassment of the opposition, with the arrest of its members and attempts to change the constitution. To do this, opposing parliamentarians are being taken out to facilitate the vote. The country is moving in an unsatisfactory direction, which raises serious questions for the EU and for our country in terms of our approach to this and with regard to freedom of the media, the rule of law and the application of human rights in that jurisdiction, particularly in the context of its citizens enjoying greater visa liberalisation with Schengen area countries and the country's application to the EU and the opening of negotiations on various chapters relating to accession.

The Taoiseach mentioned that 10,000 children have gone missing. Is that in Calais alone or generally?

I mentioned the Calais experience. I was moved by a brilliant article written by two Norwegian journalists, which won the top journalism award in Norway, entitled "The Wetsuitman". It relates to human remains in wetsuits found on two beaches in Norway and the Netherlands. It is a riveting article that traces the details of what happened both individuals. They were young people who left normal, average families in Syria because of the war, persecution and so on. They travelled all the way to Calais, where they purchased wetsuits in a local shop in the misguided belief that they could swim the English Channel. It is a sad story. Those who have different views on migration and what motivates migrants, particularly the fearmongerers, should read the article to get some understanding and feel for the complexity of what is afoot and the terrible human tragedy resulting from the war in Syria, which has given rise to the greatest refugee crisis we have experienced since the Second World War. A dramatic upscaling of effort by European leaders is needed. The situation that currently pertains in places such as Calais should not be acceptable in the EU in terms of our basic commitment to human rights and to humanity.

I appreciate that others would like to contribute and, therefore, I will leave it at that. I would appreciate it if the Taoiseach could forward the figures and schedule I asked for earlier.

I welcome the Taoiseach's assurances that naval vessels will only be used for search and rescue missions. I reject his assertion that the deal between the EU and Turkey will not be suspended. That may be the case but I ask him to demand that it be suspended. I want to make it clear that he is not acting in my name when he agrees to a deal that has seen 500 people drown this month as a consequence. Will the Taoiseach be a dissenting voice - even if it is a lone voice - against this human and humanitarian crisis, which is not happening by accident? It is happening by dint of policy.

We will conclude. I ask the Taoiseach to submit correspondence to the Deputies in respect of the outstanding questions.

I will respond to Deputy Micheál Martin. Obviously, Damascus still functions and the root cause of this is Syria. I agree with Deputy Adams that 500 people have drowned. The intention here was to limit the numbers of people getting into the water in the first place and to deal with the people smugglers. I will respond to both Deputies in writing at their request.