I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 and 66 together.
I am very concerned about the situation in the Mediterranean. Tackling the scourge of people trafficking and saving lives at sea is a priority for Ireland and we have been active in operations to tackle people-trafficking in the Mediterranean since 2015, first through Operation Pontus, a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Italy. Since 2017 Ireland has been a full member of Operation Sophia. Since 2015, Irish naval vessels have rescued thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean.
At the March 2019 Foreign Affairs Council meeting called for a continuation of the full mandate of Operation Sophia to allow time for the outstanding issues around disembarkation to be addressed without disrupting the critical work of the Mission and its humanitarian aspects. Unfortunately, to my disappointment, it was not possible to get full agreement for this, but we did ensure that the Operation will continue and that its mandate will remain under review so as to be able to respond to any changing circumstances.
The Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) meeting this month addressed the challenges the EU is facing on migration and asylum and reiterated the importance of making greater progress on European-wide solutions. The Minister of State for Justice at the Department of Justice and Equality, Mr. David Stanton T.D., attended the meeting and welcomed the increased focus on the need to create more legal pathways into Europe and on working with countries of origin and transit to assist them in ways specific to their individual needs.
Ireland also supports measures to address the root causes of irregular migration, through humanitarian and developmental programmes in developing countries. Indeed, Ireland’s pledge of €15 million for the EU’s Trust Fund for Africa is the third highest per capita contribution by an EU Member State.
In addition, Ireland has provided humanitarian assistance in solidarity with other Member States on separate occasions by making pledges to take migrants who were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea and to process their applications for international protection. Earlier this month, we indicated that we will accept five people, from the group of one hundred migrants in imminent danger rescued by the Italian Navy Ship, the ‘Cigali Fulgosi' 90 km off the coast of Lampedusa. This decision was taken as a gesture of solidarity and humanitarian assistance. France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia also all agreed to take a number of these rescued migrants.
Addressing the migration crisis will ultimately require deeper political, economic and development relationships between the EU and neighbouring countries, including many in Africa, that will form a basis for dealing with a variety of challenges on the basis of shared responsibility.