The Department and the Defence Forces are currently progressing options to repatriate 2 personnel deployed to the MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The personnel were due to complete their 6 months deployments in March/mid-April but were extended within the mission by a further month. This then brought them into the period when the UN suspended rotations in all UN missions due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. The rotation of these personnel was further extended by three months.
As the deployment of the personnel has been extended beyond their initial six month deployment, there is a requirement to extract them as soon as possible to allow for a medical assessment of the officers.
Given the urgency of the situation, both the Department and the Defence Forces are considering all available options to secure the return of these personnel at the earliest possible opportunity. However, there are a number of complexities that remain to be worked through, such as the transport of their weapons and ammunition.
My position is very clear on the matter; the timely extraction of these members of the Defence Forcesshould take precedence over any other secondary issue such as the treatment of weapons.
I acknowledge that the uncertainty around rotation dates is difficult for the individuals themselves and their families, and I would like to offer reassurance that my priority is the quick and safe return of these two officers.