Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Ceisteanna (79, 80)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

79. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if funds from his Department are sent to Libya through European Union grants to help fund the Libyan coast guard and-or detention centres for migrants and refugees in that country. [18145/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

80. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Libyan coast guard is aggressively stopping boats full of refugees in international waters (details supplied); his views on whether Libya is a safe country of origin; and the steps he is taking to request the Libyan coast guard to cease violating international law by returning refugees to a country which is not a safe country of origin. [18146/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 80 together.

I am deeply troubled by the abuses perpetrated against refugees and migrants in Libya. My EU colleagues and I have raised these concerns on a number of occasions at the Foreign Affairs Council, as did the Taoiseach at the European Council in October. I reiterate my call on the Libyan Government, and all parties, including those with de facto control of territory, to take steps to eliminate ill-treatment of migrants, and to facilitate access to detention centres by UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations.

At the European Council in October 2017, the Taoiseach announced a doubling of Ireland’s support to the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), to help address the root causes of migration. Half of Ireland's total EUTF commitment of €6 million is earmarked for the Horn of Africa, where the largest number of internally displaced persons and refugees in Africa are located. By supporting refugees and host communities, addressing socio-economic development, and building resilience, this funding addresses the long-term drivers of migration. The other half of Ireland’s contribution to the EUTF is not earmarked to any one geographical area.

Overall, the EUTF has allocated €162 million to Libya. Over half of this Libya funding goes to projects to enhance protection for migrants, refugees and host communities, and to support socio-economic development at local level. A €46 million programme aims at enhancing Libya’s capacity to effectively manage its borders, and this programme includes support for Libya’s Coastguard. The EU provides training, including in international humanitarian law, human rights and gender issues, to the Libyan Coastguard. A further €20 million is allocated to projects focused on voluntary return and reintegration, alternatives to detention, and provision of life-saving equipment, capacity building and training.

As I have said before, Libya needs a functioning coastguard, both to protect its coasts, and indeed in order to rescue people in danger at sea. I call on the Libyan authorities to ensure that the Coastguard adheres to international law at all times, including of course when lives are in danger at sea.

I share the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UNHCR’s assessment that Libya is not a safe third country. It is for this reason that the EU has increased its cooperation with these UN agencies and the African Union, to accelerate voluntary returns by migrants in Libya to their countries of origin, and to establish safe and legal pathways for resettlement of those in need of international protection. Since EU-AU-UN cooperation began in November 2017, the number of migrants in official Libyan detention centres has fallen from an estimated 20,000 people in October 2017 to 4,000 people as of March. The IOM, with the support of the EU and its Member States, is continuing to assist migrants inside Libyan detention centres, while increasing efforts to reach stranded migrants outside of detention.

The EU is also actively supporting alternatives to the detention of migrants in Libya. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was recently allowed to open a transit and departure facility in Tripoli to facilitate the transfer of vulnerable refugees to third countries. The IOM is working to promote safe spaces to host vulnerable migrants, including children, in Libya.

Ireland provided core funding to the UNHCR last year of €7.5 million, which supports its work in Libya. Ireland also provided €9.5 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2017. The ICRC’s work in Libya includes visiting detention centres to monitor the treatment of migrants, and to help them contact relatives. In 2015, Ireland earmarked €1 million in humanitarian funding specifically to support ICRC’s work in Libya.

Work such as this is a first step in improving the condition of migrants in Libya, although there is still a lot to be done to ensure that migrants do not suffer the terrible conditions which have been reported.