Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile today questioned the Minister for Justice about the potential for amending the 2004 Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act in order to take into consideration the specific needs of new communities in the North whose status is uncertain as a result of Brexit.
Speaking after his Commencement Debate on the matter this morning, Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said;
“The decision taken in Britain to drag the North out of the EU against our will has created huge uncertainty in many areas of life in this country and throughout Britain and Europe.
“One area which has been overlooked in the cut and thrust of the debate so far has been the status of those from ethnic minorities who live in the north.
“As a result of Brexit, the uncertainty in their residential status is particularly pronounced and adds extra pressure on a vulnerable section of people living in Ireland. This uncertainty is particularly pronounced although not exclusively, within non-EU citizens who are long-time residents in the North.
“The current arrangements that would see non-Irish or non-EU citizens resident in the North qualify for Irish citizenship and passports is often costly and complex.
“Many of our ethnic minority communities have been resident in Ireland for a long number of years, many of them have children born and reared here and they identify as Irish; they have built business and help secure our peace and reconciliations process. They deserve equality in accessing their Irish citizenship.
“Since Brexit, I have met the representatives of the ethnic minorities in the north on a number of occasions to discuss their concerns. I appreciate the Minister engaging on this issue today also and also committing to engaging with me further.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform David Cullinane today welcomed the acceptance of his amendments to make the new shared services office answerable to the Public Accounts Committee.
Deputy Cullinane said:
“Today, a Bill to establish that shared services office was before the Committee and I tabled a number of amendments to ensure that proper public oversight would be in place.
“The shared services offices, once established, will have significant power in the issuing of public procurement contracts.
“It is vitally important that those who spend public funds, in whatever manner, are answerable to the Oireachtas, not just the Minister.
“Public trust in public institutions is at an all-time low. Either we recognise this and work to build it up again or we abdicate our responsibilities as legislators and feed the apathy.
“The government had initially excluded this new office from the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee.
“This was unacceptable to me and so I tabled a number of amendments to address this issue.
“I am happy to say my amendments were accepted and the national shared services office, once established, will now be fully answerable to the Public Accounts Committee.
“Another of my amendments, which would have seen the pay of board members subject to review by the finance committee, was rejected by the government.
“I will be resubmitting this again at report stage as we have had too many scandals involving pay and allowances above and beyond ministerial guidelines to simply ignore the issue.
“Overall, we need more openness and transparency in our public sector and I will continue to work towards that goal.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has this morning published Sinn Féin's submission to the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy on the vacant homes strategy. The submission outlines how up to 36,000 vacant units can be brought into use through a range of measures. Some of these initiatives include a statutory vacant homes register, a vacant homes tax and encouraging greater use of compulsory purchase orders, and the appointment of vacant homes officers.
Speaking after the launch, Deputy Ó Broin said:
“The CSO statistics have told us that there are currently 183,000 vacant homes across the state. The three government schemes currently in place aimed at bringing vacant units back into use are good schemes but are not ambitious enough and are inadequately funded. In fact, combined they would only bring 3% of the total vacant stock back into use in six years.
“Our strategy would aim to return to active use a minimum of 20% of the current vacant stock, 36,000 units, over a period of six years, delivering approx. 6,000 units per year. The funding for this would come from within the capital funding allocation as outlined in government’s housing action plan.
“To help reach this target, local authorities should be instructed to complete a vacant home register which should include all properties that have been vacant for six months or more. The appointment of vacant homes officers would help to oversee the register and would also engage with vacant home owners.
“Sinn Féin is of the view that in order to maximise the return of vacant units to active use we need incentives for those who require assistance to bring these units back to use and penalties for those who wilfully leave properties empty. The government should introduce a vacant homes tax applicable to properties vacant for more than six months within DEDs or LEAs determined by local authorities as having a high level of housing need and a high level of vacancy. This would be subject to certain exemptions including homes in probate and in the Fair Deal scheme.
“We have submitted our proposals to the Department of Housing and I hope they will inform the government’s long –awaited vacant homes strategy. We are in the midst of a supply and affordability crisis and turning around vacant units is the quickest and most cost effective way of providing more homes.”
Note: Please see attached the document in question
Sinn Féin is to nominate Cllr Mícheál Mac Donncha for the position of Ardmhéara (Lord Mayor) of Dublin at the City Council Annual Meeting next Monday 26 June.
Confirming the nomination the leader of the Sinn Féin group on the City Council, Cllr. Séamus McGrattan said:
"Under the City Alliance agreement between Sinn Féin, the Independents group, the Labour Party and the Green Party, Sinn Féin holds the Ardmhéara position in 2017/2018 while the Labour Party holds the Deputy Lord Mayorship.
"We will be nominating Cllr. Micheál Mac Donncha for Ardmhéara. Micheál has been a member of Dublin City Council since 2011 and before that he served for 17 years as Dáil Assistant to Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. We look forward to Mícheál continuing the great work of the first Sinn Féin Ardmhéara, Críona Ní Dhálaigh in 2015/2016."
Sinn Féin TD for Meath West, Peadar Tóibín has said that there is the chronic understaffing of mental health services for children and teenagers in Meath.
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health CAMHS teams, which come under the auspices of the HSE in the Meath and Midlands region, have just over half of the staff they need to fulfil their duties.
An Teachta Tóibín said:
“Community teams for child and mental health services are desperately short of staff. The Community Health Organisation Area which contains Meath, has only 57% of the necessary staff in this area.
“This information, released to my colleague Deputy Louise O’ Reilly by the HSE, is very distressing. It comes only days after a Unicef report highlighted that Ireland has the fourth highest teen suicide rate the in the EU.
“There is not a community in the area that hasn’t been affected by the tragedy of teen suicide. Yet it’s clear that the government are unequipped to tackle this devastating problem. Nationwide the picture is similarly bleak with 583 posts in the CAMHS services unfilled.
“A Vision for Change, published eleven years ago, was seen as the elixir for the mental health services and became government policy. However, the progressive proposals are not being implemented – owing partly to a broader problem of recruitment and retention of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare staff.
“Young people, families and communities are being failed. We are calling on the government to resolve staff recruitment and retention issues and to tackle key issues such as working conditions, facilities, supports, training opportunities, and pay as a matter of urgency.”
Note: Please see the PQ information in question attached
Sinn Féin spokesperson for the Arts Peadar Tóibín TD has expressed his disappointment at Minister Heather Humphreys and the lack of oversight regarding access to the arts for people with disabilities.
In response to a parliamentary question the Deputy put to the Minister, the Minister has said that there has been no audit of state institutions in receipt of public funding to measure their levels of access to arts audiences and practitioners with disabilities.
Deputy Tóibín said:
“We are disappointed that the Minister for outsourcing her own responsibilities. She is the head of the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht and despite all her effusive claims to support the arts, the rights of arts access for those with disabilities is not being monitored by the department.
“The Minister has said that the Arts Council policy is due to be reviewed and that an audit of this nature is a ‘matter for the Arts Council to consider in the context of its policy’. Surely the Minister must have some influence on whether or not the rights of those with disabilities are being considered in this regard?
“According to the latest census, 13.5% of the population have a disability. That is approximately 600,000 people who are potentially affected from being able to engage with and enjoy the arts with no mechanisms in place to ensure that access levels are adequate.
“There are many easy ways for venues to improve access to the arts, and many venues do indeed offer excellent facilities. However I am concerned by the fact that state funded institutions and organisations simply are not being assessed, and even more concerned by the ease with which the Minister can dismiss her own responsibilities in this regard.”
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Education and Skills Carol Nolan has today said that the School Admissions Bill must protect the rights of all children to receive an education. Teachta Nolan was speaking following the Committee’s report on the Bill and as the deadline for amendments passes this morning.
Teachta Nolan said:
“The right of all children to receive an education on an equal basis is our primary focus in determining our approach to this Bill.
“I, along with a number of colleagues on the Oireachtas Committee, fought hard to ensure that recommendations on the Baptism Barrier, the rights of children with special educational needs, and the rights of native Irish speakers were included in the Committee’s report on this Bill.
“I have submitted a number of amendments to the Bill including one to prohibit publicly funded schools from discriminating against students on the basis of their religious beliefs.
“I have also sought to extend statutory powers to the National Council for Special Education to establish an autism or special class where there is local demand.
“In terms of native Irish language speakers, I have sought to ensure that those who are brought up through the medium of Irish at home will retain the right to access education through the medium of Irish.
“I hope that my colleagues on the Education Committee will work with me to help ensure that this bill enhances the rights of children to receive their education.
“I also hope that the Minister will consider the recommendations of the Committee Report and use this opportunity to reflect these views in the Bill.”
Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, a member of the Environment, Public Health & Food Safety Committee, has welcomed this morning’s overwhelming rejection of an attempt to lift a ban on the use of damaging insecticides.
Ms Boylan said
“In 2013, the European Commission and Member states opted to restrict the use of neo-nicotinoids due to fears that they may pose a risk to pollinators, in particular bees. The evidence was not definitive but the EU opted to err on the side of caution and invoked the precautionary principle, a cornerstone of EU decision making.
“Now four years on, the use of the precautionary principle has been vindicated as scientific evidence against these insecticides mounts. They have been shown to remain in the soil over long periods making seasonal restrictions ineffective and further evidence indicates that they may also pose risks to bird species.
“It is only right that the EU Commission has proposed to ban the use of imidaloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam. They have stated that they pose a ‘high risk’ to bees, therefore to not ban them would defy logic.
“This morning’s attempt by the Tory MEP Julie Girling to object to this ban was irresponsible; without pollinators, we cannot survive. The only benefactors of Ms Girling’s objection would be industry, who interestingly were present in large numbers during the debate on the matter.
“I am happy to see that MEPs across the political spectrum voted to put nature and scientific evidence ahead of the interests of industry. The ban on these harmful insecticides has also been a powerful reminder of how important the precautionary principle is and why we must protect it from attempts to destroy it in recent trade negotiations.”
Commenting on figures released by the Department of Foreign Affairs to thejournal.ie today that there are currently 65,916 passport applications awaiting processing, Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has reiterated his call for the Government to invest to meet the rising demand for Irish passports.
Speaking on this issue and calling on the new Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to act, Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said;
“Today’s figures are startling but not entirely surprising when we consider the detrimental impact Brexit is having on Ireland and Irish people who wish to reaffirm and retain their Irish and EU citizenship.
“The figures released to thejournal.ie show yet again, the upward trend in passport applications, which I and others have been flagging to Government since the vote on Brexit took place last June.
“There is no question that Passport Office staff have been working diligently, under unprecedented demand and pressures since the Brexit vote and our sincerest thanks goes to them.
“What the Government can no longer deny however is the ever increasing demand being placed on staff within the Passport Office as a result of this huge increase in applications. The Government must urgently review their resourcing of this office in order to support staff and meet the identifiable need that will continue to rise.
“Given the fact that over ten thousand of the current applications awaiting processing are coming from the North, it makes absolute sense for the Minister to look at my long-standing appeal to his predecessor, that his Department open a dedicated Passport Office facility in the North that can meet the demand there as well as act as a further support for the applications coming from the rest of Ireland and Britain.
“I will be seeking a meeting with Minister Coveney to discuss this matter as soon as possible, as well raising it with wider Government on the floor of the Seanad once again.”
Speaking after today’s Committee Stage debate on the Irish Sign Language Bill Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has said that not only must Irish Sign Language (ISL) be recognised as an official language of the State but that Government must also commit to resourcing the legislation fully.
Speaking from Leinster House today Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said;
"This legislation is of significance importance to the rights and entitlements of citizens who are deaf; this is an issue of fundamental civil and human rights and we must ensure that ISL is recognised and resourced fully.
"Today’s debate stood in stark contrast to the positive nature and tone of earlier debates and I sincerely hope that today is not indicative of the approach that Government is going to take as this Bill continues to progress through the Seanad.
"I have no doubt that representatives from the Deaf Community who were present today were disheartened and dismayed at the haphazard and chaotic nature of the Government’s approach to this important legislation.
"For our part, Sinn Féin is fully committed to supporting the passage of ISL recognition legislation and will continue to work towards ensuring that the Government fully resource it in order to meet the specific needs and entitlements of citizens who are deaf. We don’t want to see anyone treated as second class citizens, that is why this legislation must go beyond the important issue of recognition alone and ensure that the State delivers what is practically and tangibly needed to ensure full equality and rights to our deaf citizens.
"The approach shown by Government today has to change. The people who joined us in the gallery today and the deaf people across the State deserve no less." CRÍOCH
Speaking tonight after the Central bank and Financial services Authority of Ireland (Amendment) Bill passed second stage in the Seanad Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh said;
“The main reason for this legislation is to give recourse to those people who are currently denied access to the services of the Financial Services Ombudsman because of the six year statute of limitations.
“Over the last five years 3,000 people have been refused because of this rule. These are the official figures but all sides accept that the real figure is much higher because people know about the rule and so don’t apply or they ring up the Ombudsman and are told about the rule so never officially apply.
“This Sinn Féin bill, which is one of the first opposition bills to pass the Dáil and progress through the Seanad, is a positive response to the disastrous regulation of the financial services industry to date.
“Sinn Féin is more than willing to challenge and expose financial institutions that have misled their customers using every avenue available to us. However we are also a party of workable solutions to difficulties currently faced by consumers.”
Senator-Conway-Walsh also stressed the need for all stages to be passed as soon as possible:
“I hope too that we can show unity to the families waiting for this Bill to pass by prioritising it for the remaining Stages as soon as possible. There are families watching tonight and urging us to progress this Bill and to put in place a time frame for it to be passed.
“Every week and month that passes means more misery for those who continue to feel abandoned and hopeless in the face of wrongdoing by financial institutions.”
Speaking in the Dáil this evening on the appointment of the former AG Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal, Sinn Fein Justice spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has said the government has serious questions to answer and that the issue has all the hall marks of a political appointment.
Teachta O’Brien said;
“It is remarkable that three practicing judges could express an interest in the position and it is then awarded to a person who had not expressed interest, who didn’t apply, who wasn’t actually a judge and who was present at the Cabinet meeting where her nomination was discussed.
“If an ordinary person went for a job interview and then a person on the panel got the job, they would rightfully question whether there had been fair procedures followed.
“To be clear, we are not suggesting illegality.
“We are questioning the circumventing of the law that is in place concerning how a person applies for judicial office, how they are nominated and how they are appointed.
“This incident has all the hallmarks of a political appointment.
“This Government has serious questions to answer regarding how the position was advertised and the reason why the Government provided the excuse that there were no qualified applicants.
“Did one single member of the cabinet have the wit to mention that this might appear to be unethical conduct?
“Deputy Michéal Martin and Taoiseach Varadkar had a conversation about this on Sunday evening – but who phoned who? If Taoiseach Varadkar phoned Micheal Martin then surely this is a breach of cabinet confidentiality. If Michael Martin phoned Varadkar, then how did he get wind of the rush to the park the next day?
“It is clear that Fianna Fáil are not to be trusted on this issue. They have facilitated the election of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach and they are not prepared to use the leverage that they have to hold Fine Gael to account on this issue.”
Speaking in the Dáil this evening on the appointment of the former AG Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal, Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald said Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has serious questions to answer in relation to the telephone call he had with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last Sunday.
Teachta McDonald said;
“Sinn Fein has made its position clear on this matter. The manner in which Máire Whelan was appointed bypassed the proper procedures for such appointments and we called on her to stand down in order to allow for a proper appointments procedure to take place.
“Unfortunately, the Taoiseach had other ideas and he rushed through the trip to the park in order for Ms Whelan to receive he seal of office from the President.
“However, the revelation by the Taoiseach today of a phone call between himself and Deputy Martin on Sunday evening, in which Deputy Martin questioned Ms Whelan’s suitability for the position, suggests that the Fianna Fáil leader was trying to influence this appointment.
“That is a very serious matter and Micheál Martin has very serious questions to answer.
“Is it the case the Micheál Martin attempted to use his influence on government to prevent a candidate for the bench from being appointed?
“Does he believe that his confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael allows him the authority to have a say on who gets appointed to the bench?
“Ms Whelan’s appoints smacks of a political appointment but it looks as though Micheál Martin’s only concern is that it was not his political appointment.
“While I welcome this evening’s question and answer session with the government on this matter it is clear to me that Micheál Martin also has questions to answer.’
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said he is deeply concerned following comments by the Fiscal Council’s Chief Economist at the Budget Oversight Committee that the Department of Finance’s projections may underestimate the impact of Brexit significantly.
Deputy Doherty said:
“I am deeply concerned that the Fiscal Council told me yesterday that the COSMO model used by the Department of Finance may seriously underestimate the negative impact of Brexit on the Irish economy. When we consider that the Department is predicting 40,000 less people at work and an extra public debt of €20bn as a result of a Hard Brexit then these comments from the Fiscal Council are deeply concerning.
“The Council’s Chief Economist explained how they were worried that the Department of Finance’s figures were too optimistic on three grounds. Firstly, the model used does not take into account the fact that exports to Britain are more labour intensive than other export markets. Secondly, the COSMO model could underestimate the shock impact of Brexit and finally the model does not take into account the exchange rate changes that as we have seen already have been a feature of the Brexit process to date.
“When I pushed the Council as to the possible implications, they confirmed the effect could be significant. Additionally, the Council indicated that the ESRI shares these concerns.
“The concerns of the Fiscal Council and ESRI echo my concerns that the government does not fully grasp the scale of the challenge of Brexit. These concerns emphasise why we need to argue for Special Status for the North and for government action to secure State Aid flexibility and exemptions under the State Aid rule argued for by Sinn Féin.”
Speaking at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine yesterday, Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris warned that greed would destroy the fishing industry if the sector’s leaders did not look to the common good. Deputy Ferris was discussing distribution of the national quota and the dominance of some producer groups within the sector.
Deputy Ferris said:
“I recognise that there has been huge investment and there is huge money involved, but someone has to be looking at the bigger picture and thinking of the common good. There is an onus of responsibility on stakeholders to work for that and for coastal communities.
“There are two people trawling out of Fenit now,” he said, referring to his own home port. “There were 15 or 16 people at it 20 years ago. Government policy is decommissioning of boats, but is that the way ahead? Is that what ye want?”
“There is a responsibility on the leaders of this sector and if they don’t take it on, the 23 or 27 boats fishing for mackerel and polyvalent sectors now might be a lot less in 20 years and the 2,000 others, the smaller operators, might be gone altogether.
“The powerful fishing organisations have a responsibility to the fishing sector and fishing communities. What’s wrong with giving some quota to the weaker sectors, will someone explain to me? It’s up to you to solve it.
“A viable industry has to be for the many and not for the few.”
Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane today lambasted the Health Minister over the government’s refusal to provide 24/7 primary PCI cover at University Hospital Waterford.
Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Cullinane said:
“The people of Waterford and the South East are angry, and they have a right to be angry.
“Thomas Power presented himself at University Hospital Waterford and was transferred to Cork because it is HSE policy to have the cardiac unit shut at the weekend.
“That policy did not save Mr Power’s life. It did not work.
“And let me say that again; it is national policy not to have a single primary PCI unit open in the entire south east after 5pm and at weekends.
“University Hospital Waterford has a catchment area of half a million people, just over 10 per cent of the entire population.
“The deliberate blocking of a full 24/7 PCI policy for the South East created the circumstances for something like this to happen.
“The people of Waterford knew this and lived in fear of it.
“We organised. We held meetings. We marched. We wrote to the Minister and explained the situation.
“When a national review was announced to great fanfare by the Minister, I submitted a document outlining the clinical and population reasons for having a second Cath lab and 24/7 cover.
“Let me state here that it is normal for a regional hospital to provide such cover. What is not normal is to take it away.
“The government’s policy towards Waterford and the South East has to change.
“University Hospital Waterford services the south east and needs both the resources and the policy that befits a regional hospital.
“The people of Waterford and the South East still not stand for this any longer.
“The policy needs to go, and if the policy stays, the Minister must go.”
The Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has expressed shock at the significant increase in compensation payments to members of the Prison Service and to prisoners.
Reacting to a reply he received to a Parliamentary Question to the Minister for Justice and Equality that shows a significant rise in the actual payout on the back of claims for accidents and incidents across the network of prison sites, €5.658 million in 2016, the Sinn Fein Deputy also points to a steady growth year on year in claims made by prison staff since 2012.
Deputy Ó Caoláin has stated that he is writing to the new Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan TD on the matter seeking an explanation for the rise and the nature of the accidents and incidents involved.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said:
“The monies being paid out all come ultimately out of the Prisons Vote in terms of exchequer spending. Whatever steps need to be taken to curtail the numbers of incidents and payout sums involved must be properly examined and employed if appropriate. The number of incidents is a concern and the monies involved are also a concern as these sums are needed to address already pressing issues within the Prison Service.”
Donegal Sinn Féin Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has repeated his support for the call from firefighters in Donegal and across the State for them to act as first responders for the National Ambulance Service in circumstances such as cardiac arrests, respiratory emergencies, asthma attacks and other emergencies that require lifesaving skills in a timely fashion.
Senator Mac Lochlainn said:
“I have spoken to firefighters and fire and rescue personnel here in Donegal on many occasions about their call to be utilised as first responders for the National Ambulance Service (NAS). These dedicated personnel are trained by the NAS as first responders with the requisite lifesaving skills. However, they are having to stand by watching ambulances struggling to get to life and death emergencies on time when they could get to the scene first and possibly save those lives.
“I know that they feel that lives may have already have been lost that could have been saved here in Donegal and elsewhere.
“I have repeatedly raised this issue with various Ministers for Health and Environment and Local Government, responsible for the NAS and the fire service across the State. Indeed, I have met with senior management in the National Ambulance Service and the Fire Service to discuss how this can happen. Those meetings confirmed there was no resistance from them.
“However, the most recent response from the Ministers given to my colleague, Deputy Louise O’Reilly is very frustrating. They have confirmed that within the HSE an Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Steering Group has been established to examine this and in the Department of Environment and Local Government, the Management Board of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management is examining the matter.
“A few years back, I felt that we were closer to a solution than this. Back then, all that was required was a memorandum of understanding on who would cover the costs.
“I will continue to support the calls of firefighters and fire and rescue personnel across the State until this is sorted out.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Seán Crowe TD has challenged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over the Irish Government’s passive support for creating a standing EU Army and its support for EU migration policies which are failing refugees.
Deputy Crowe was speaking in the Dáil during statements on the European Council meeting which will take place this Thursday and Friday.
Deputy Crowe said:
“Two of the key issues at the next Council meeting will be the funding to facilitate a standing EU Army and migration. I believe the EU’s priorities on these issues are all wrong.
“The EU says it has no spare money for positive social and economic programmes such as youth unemployment projects, community regeneration, improving public services like health care, but it has now announced that it will spend €1.5 billion a year on regressive military project to ultimately facilitate a standing EU army.
“The Taoiseach is also signing off on this while a large proportion of our Defence Forces are reliant on lousy wages and on social welfare top ups, and are living in substandard accommodations.
“Any EU policy which aims to increase EU militarisation is a potential threat to Irish neutrality and the Irish Government should veto these plans.”
Deputy Crowe continued:
“Yesterday was world refugee day and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have confirmed that at least 1,828 people having died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe this year.
“The preventable deaths of men, women and children in the Mediterranean is unacceptable and a stain on the EU and Member States.
“It is also reported that the conclusions of this Council meeting will include support and training for the Libyan naval coastguard. However those stopped by the Libyan coastguard are then taken to any number of detention centres, where they are more than likely to face abuse and exploitation.
“I have seen NGO reports, read personal stories, and seen photo evidence of the conditions of these so-called migrant centres. These centres do not meet any humane standard at all and those imprisoned in them have their human rights brutally violated by armed militias.
“I am calling on the Government to ensure no refugee is returned to Libya and placed in these centres, and to oppose the EU’s so-called migration compacts with five African states which tie EU aid and trade to stemming flows of refugees. This approach is not working, is counterproductive, and morally wrong.”