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Fortress Europe is not solution to EU asylum issue

19 August, 2004

Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today called upon the European Union to abandon its Fortress Europe approach to asylum policy and instead 'treat refugees with the respect that they deserve.' Ms McDonald's call comes after Italian EU Commissioner Rocco Buttiglione, who is due to take up the EU Justice and Home Affairs portfolio on November 1st, suggested that a refugee processing zone should be set up in North Africa to prevent asylum seekers from entering EU member states.

Speaking today, Ms McDonald said:

"The plan to create asylum quarantine centres in North Africa was originally mooted by Britain in 2003, supported by Germany, and has now been endorsed by the incoming Italian Commissioner Rocco Buttiglione. The proposal cannot be supported by Sinn Fein and I call on the Government and all Irish MEPs to vigorously oppose it.

"The proposed quarantine centres have been criticised by human rights groups as inconsistent with the EU's international obligations to protect refugees. It would represent a total abdication of the EU's responsibility to shoulder its fair share of the load in the global challenge of refugee protection - a burden primarily and unjustly carried at present by developing world countries.

"The European Union could be leading the way in presenting a progressive, compassionate and fully human rights-compliant approach to asylum. Sadly, the reality is much different. This abhorrent proposal is indicative of the kind of Common Migration and Asylum policies coming out of the EU under its present regressive direction.

"The Fortress Europe school of thought is now not only guiding EU migration policy but is also becoming progressively institutionalised. This must be challenged by all of us who care about human rights and expect the highest standards of human rights compliance by the EU. It will be challenged by Sinn Fein in the coming session of the EU Parliament." ENDS

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