Europe ‘could have acted earlier’ on migrants - Fitzgerald

Minister says Europe only began responding to crisis in a co-ordinated way very recently

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said all countries across Europe could probably have acted earlier on the ongoing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said all countries across Europe could probably have acted earlier on the ongoing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

 

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said all countries across Europe could have acted earlier on the ongoing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Ms Fitzgerald said Europe had only begun responding to the humanitarian crisis in a co-ordinated way very recently.

“I think all countries across Europe could probably have acted earlier,” she said.

The Minister was questioned on RTÉ’s This Week programme about briefing documents prepared for Justice and Home Affairs Council meetings released to the station under Freedom of Information.

RTÉ said the documents showed that Ireland’s original stance was that “search and rescue missions such as Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation, have inadvertently encouraged” criminals to “provide even less seaworthy vessels on the grounds that the migrants will be rescued at sea”.

The papers prepared for Justice and Home Affairs Council showed Ireland “maintained a relatively low profile” on the issue of migrants in the Central Mediterranean on the basis that it had “little direct impact” on the country.

The Department of Justice insisted Ireland had never voiced any opposition to search and rescue at EU level, nor was the Minister advised to do so.

“The reality is that the response in the EU to the Mediterranean crisis has evolved as events unfolded and this is true for all member states including Ireland,” a statement said.

Ms Fitzgerald said she had been “intervening and involved” since she became Minister.

“The truth is, in good faith it was felt, that putting out the ships, increasing Mare Nostrum at that time wouldn’t actually be helpful that, in fact, it would encourage people to get into unseaworthy vessels boats.

“When you look back at that, clearly people lost their lives, of course we regret the loss of any one life, but there is a much more effective response now”.