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Concerns regarding potential TB outbreak should not be used to spread xenophobia

10 October, 2006

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP has today expressed her concerns that a potential tuberculosis crisis could hit the EU and urged European leaders to work to combat any future outbreak.

However, Ms McDonald also expressed her concerns that given new strains had been identified on the borders of the EU this should not be used to peddle falsehoods and myths regarding people from non EU countries.

Speaking today Ms McDonald:

"It has been estimated that approximately 1.7 million people die globally from tuberculosis every year. The public perception across Ireland and indeed throughout the EU is that TB is a disease largely consigned to history. However, the World Health Organisation has identified a number of new strains across Central Europe and Asia, with many of the 'hottest zones' on the periphery of the EU.

"It is essential that European agencies adopt a joined up approach to monitor this situation and pro actively draw up a response in conjunction with EU member states. It is also important that the EU work closely with the WHO, who have been working to detect and treat TB.

"Sinn Féin welcomes the free movement of people and workers in particular across the EU, and my hope is that this news will not lead to a heightened sense of xenophobia and racism against peoples from outside of the EU. The debate around the accession of both Bulgaria and Romania to the EU has been partly characterized by stereotypes and myths peddled about their intentions, health and alleged criminality. There are those who would seize upon a potential TB outbreak to scaremonger to suit their own narrow political agendas.

"The EU needs to commit itself to ensuring that this disease is fought effectively both inside and outside its borders and that we work hard to eradicate it." ENDS

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