Deputies are aware of my deep concern about the humanitarian situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a comprehensive approach to migration.
Italy and Malta have been two of the EU states most affected by the current migration crisis. While the social, economic and political stresses arising from the crisis are very considerable, it is essential that humanitarian and legal obligations continue to be met. The new Italian Government is considering the Italian position on access for NGO ships. Following agreement on redistribution with other Member States, Italy allowed people, from the Ocean Viking ship, to disembark in Lampedusa at the weekend. I was also pleased to note that the new Government in its programme for Government has indicated that it will revise the ‘Security and Migration’ legislation introduced by former Minister Salvini under the previous administration.
Migration remains a difficult issue within the Union where views can often be sharply divided. There are countries which have been required to take in large numbers of asylum seekers and others who continue to resist taking in any. We have consistently called for all EU Member States to play their part in burden-sharing and to help to relieve pressure on front-line Member States like Italy and Malta.
The dignity and human rights of those rescued at sea must be respected. Savings lives at sea is a major priority for my Department and this Government. Ireland has been active in Search and Rescue missions in the Mediterranean since 2015. The Irish Naval Service has rescued more than 17,500 people since the beginning of the crisis.
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.
Since 2015, Ireland has admitted over 2,500 people under the EU Relocation Programme and the UNHCR-led refugee Resettlement Programme.
But I believe we need to move from an ad hoc approach and Ireland is working with our EU partners to resolve the migration issue and find more sustainable solutions. We believe the solution will involve consensus among Member States based on solidarity and responsibility. Ireland supports measures to address the root causes of irregular migration, through humanitarian and developmental programmes in origin and transit countries and closer political, economic and development relationships between the EU and its neighbouring countries.