Italy’s president praises Ireland for response to migrant crisis

Government has said it will accept 600 additional refugees over the next two years

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella: Ireland among the ‘more generous’ countries in accepting refugees.  Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella: Ireland among the ‘more generous’ countries in accepting refugees. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

 

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella has praised the Irish response to this year’s Meditteranean migrant crisis.

Speaking to the Italian parliamentary press corps, Mr Mattarella offered a lengthy analysis of his first six months in office, a period during which Italy has strugged to cope with the ever-increasing numbers of illegal migrants who have landed on its southern coasts, saying:

“There is another area in which Europe needs to question itself. When it comes to the drama represented by the migrants and asylum seekers, Europe is not doing what it should do, it is not doing what its history, what its sense of civilisation requires,” he said.

“Of course, it is with great satisfaction that we welcome the European Council agreement on the voluntary acceptance of a quota of refugees throughout the EU... this is an important step because it represents the first time that the EU has formally taken on board the concept that the refugee problem is a problem for the entire EU and not just the individual country in which the refugees arrive...

“In this context, I want to point out something... Namely, some countries were more generous than others – Sweden, Finland and Romania accepted the full quota of refugees proposed by the commission. Ireland, which under EU rules was not obliged to accept any migrants, nonetheless offered to take in a large number of refugees...”

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald told a meeting of EU justice ministers this month that Ireland would accept 600 refugees, mainly from Syria and Eritrea, over the next two years.

The meeting considered a plan to relocate up to 40,000 refugees in need of international protection who are currently in Italy and Greece.

The plan to relocate refugees to Ireland, which is subject to approval by the Oireachtas, is in addition to a previous commitment to resettle 520 refugees from areas affected by conflict.

Ireland has has also sent a boat (first the LE Eithne and then the LE Niamh) to join the Italian co-ordinated “search and rescue” operations, off the coasts of Italy and Libya. The International Organisation for Migration earlier this month estimated that since the beginning of the year, some 70,000 migrants including Syrians, Eritreans, Nigerians, Somalis, Gambians and Sudanese have landed off the Italian coasts.