‘No control’ over €23m for EU-Turkey migration deal

Darragh O’Brien (FF): ‘Is that going to provide barbed wire... that separates children?’

The Government has no control over where almost €23 million in funding for the controversial EU-Turkey migration deal ends up, Fianna Fáil’s foreign affairs spokesman has claimed.

Darragh O'Brien TD has raised concerns over the lack of transparency around the Government's funding of the migration deal to return refugees and migrants arriving in Europe to Turkey, which came into force last March.

Mr O'Brien originally raised the issue with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan during a Dáil debate July 5th.

Mr Flanagan replied that he was “conscious that these monies will go solely towards the relief in the form of humanitarian response”.

‘No clarification’

However, Mr O’Brien said: “No clarification has been given on where that money is actually going. Is that going to provide the barbed wire... and the fence that separates children from other displaced people in Greece or on the borders of the EU?”

He said he had also failed to gain any clarity through his role on the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee. “Unless they can prove otherwise, they don’t have any control over it.

“That money should not be taken from our own fund for overseas development assistance (ODA). It should be separate, but it only should go in if we know that it’s going to assist people,” he added.

Ireland will, in the four years from 2016 to 2019, contribute just under €23 million toward €3 billion of EU funding agreed under the Joint EU-Turkey Action Plan.

In a statement, the department was unable to provide a breakdown of where the funding was going, but said: “Oversight of the facility in question is provided by a steering committee, of which Ireland is a member.

“The committee will ensure that the funding is directed towards refugees and host communities and at meeting immediate humanitarian needs.”

Various aid agencies have criticised the deal, with Médecins Sans Frontières announcing in June it will no longer accept funding through the State’s ODA allocation.

Speaking before the anniversary on Saturday of the Government’s pledge to receive 4,000 people by the end of 2017 through various resettlement and relocation programmes, Mr O’Brien questioned the Government’s commitment in the run-up to this month’s high-profile UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which Ireland will co-facilitate.

“In consideration of this important role, Ireland should be showing greater leadership,” he said. “For Ireland to be co-chairing a conference with 38 relocated people and one unaccompanied child is frankly pathetic.”

His concerns were echoed this week by the Refugee and Migrant Coalition, which called on the Government to “urgently increase its intake of refugees”.

To date, just 331 people, 8 per cent of the pledged total of 4,000, have been accepted.

Unaccompanied children

The coalition, made up of over 20 NGOs, including the Irish Refugee Council and Oxfam Ireland, stressed the importance of the relocation of unaccompanied children and the reunification of families.

Edel McGinley, director of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, described it as “unacceptable” that Ireland has so far only taken in one unaccompanied child.

“Children seeking safety and protection who are separated from their families are languishing in squalid camps, suffering abuse and exploitation and falling prey to human traffickers because of the failure of EU leaders to manage this crisis.”

In a statement, the Department of Justice said the delay in taking in further numbers is due to operational issues in Italy and Greece, but that they hope to start receiving at least 60-80 persons per month shortly, including unaccompanied minors and Syrian families.