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Sunday 11 December 2016

Coveney blasts 'inhumane' trafficking trade

Published 08/08/2015 | 02:30

Migrants sit in a Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) RHIB alongside the MOAS ship MV Phoenix before being transferred to the Norwegian ship Siem Pilot off the coast of Libya
Migrants sit in a Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) RHIB alongside the MOAS ship MV Phoenix before being transferred to the Norwegian ship Siem Pilot off the coast of Libya

Defence Minister Simon Coveney has hit out at the "nasty" and "inhumane" people traffickers profiting from the migration crisis in North Africa.

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Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Coveney called for more a­ction from the European Union but ruled out military intervention to stem the surge of migrants risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean.

The minister said Ireland has been "very generous" in its approach to the crisis and believes countries taking a "hard-line" view on migration are taking the wrong stance.

"Anyone who thinks this migration issue is going away is very naive," Mr Coveney said.

"There is a lot of money being made by some very cynical and very nasty people who are literally herding people like animals on to those boats. It is inhumane what has happened and that's why we need to be proactive," he added.

He was speaking after a week of tragedy in the Mediterranean which saw up to 200 people drown during a rescue operation involving the Irish naval vessel the LE Niamh. Italian police arrested three Libyans and two Algerians yesterday who they have accused of multiple homicide and human trafficking.

Police say migrants were beaten and stabbed during the voyage, with many locked in the hold.

The men, who ranged in age from 21 to 24, charged the migrants between €1,100 and €1,650 for the voyage, depending on where they would be placed on the boat.

Mr Coveney said Ireland's support of the humanitarian crisis has cost €2m this summer and he is considering extending the Irish Navy's mission in the region.

However, he warned against operating an "open-door policy" for migrants in Ireland.

"There is some commentary over the last number of days that Ireland should have an open-door policy in terms of people who want to come in from North Africa," he told the Irish Independent.

"I don't think that's realistic either, that would lead to all sorts of challenges around housing and social welfare supports," he added. The minster said the medium and long-term goals of EU states should be providing stability in migrants' home countries.

"This requires a collective approach by the European Union as a whole," he said.

"Some countries have taken a hard line on migration and accepting refugees. I think that it is wrong, but it is a decision for individual countries to make and Ireland should not be lecturing on that," he added.

Ireland has accepted more than 500 refugees this year and pledged to accept another 600.

Irish Independent

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