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de Brún highlights Human Rights abuses against irregular migrants

25 October, 2005

Speaking at a public hearing in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, on the issue of the treatment of detained migrants and potential asylum seekers within the EU, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has said that "the human and civil rights of migrants and asylum seekers seeking residence within the EU must be respected".

Ms de Brún said:

"The initiative taken by the Italian journalist Fabrizio Gatti, in posing as an irregular migrant to gain access to the temporary holding centre on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, has helped to expose the intolerable neglect and ill-treatment of migrants there.

"In June of this year I had the opportunity to participate in an MEPs delegation to this camp, where up to 1,000 migrants can be detained at any one time. The Italian authorities have said that capacity of Lampedusa is 186 people.

"Our delegation expressed concerns about the conditions in which migrants are held and about the procedures, access to legal help and provision of information in a language the migrants understand. We were shocked by the conditions in which those detained are held. The living and sleeping conditions were atrocious, overcrowding was a major problem and medical facilities did not appear to go beyond the very basic.

This latest account, by the correspondent for the Italian weekly magazine L'Espresso, shows the reality behind the facade that is presented to visiting delegations. The story he tells goes beyond neglect and shows the ill-treatment of those detained in the temporary holding centre on Lampedusa.

"In relation to irregular migration and those seeking asylum, the emphasis must always be on care and protection rather than focussing first and foremost on detention and possible expulsion. When you consider that the majority of refugees remain in the developing world and seek and gain accommodation there, there is no excuse for those in richer European countries adopting a 'Fortress Europe' approach.

"We must adopt a more humane approach, based on international human rights norms. We must also deal with the underlying causes of conflict, war and poverty that drive many to seek refuge within the borders of the EU. We in Ireland need to remember our relatives who emigrated in their thousands, when Ireland was less prosperous than it is today. What we want for them must be what we seek for those who arrive on our shores." ENDS

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