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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Enda Kenny lands in Brussels to attend emergency summit to tackle migration crisis

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Reuters
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Reuters

Enda Kenny is in Brussels to attend an emergency summit to tackle the migration crisis in Europe, where he is to raise the issue of a border crossing in northern Syria that he says could cause a further influx of one million people to the EU.

He said he received an update on the matter from Irish-run charity Goal, which transports humanitarian aid via the Bab al-Hawa crossing in north-western Syria.

“Five hundred trucks a month go through there with humanitarian aid, of which Ireland is a main subscriber,” Mr Kenny said.

“There are one million beneficiaries involved in this crossing and if this is to close - and that seems to be imminent - that would mean that another million people would want to cross the border and seek refuge into Turkey and from there through to Greece,” he said.

“I intend to raise the matter here formally with the [Turkish] prime minister now.”

Mr Kenny also announced that Ireland intends to send a second naval vessel to the Mediterranean sea to help with the humanitarian situation there.

EU leaders are discussing further concessions for Turkey - after agreeing €3billion in funding, visa liberalisation and progress on enlargement talks at a previous summit last November - to encourage it to take back migrants not entitled to international protection, and to keep people from travelling on to Europe in search of asylum.

Ireland will contribute €22m to the EU's €3bn euro package for Turkey, which will be paid out in four instalments over “a number of years”, Mr Kenny said.

The money will go towards helping to improve conditions for people living in refugee camps in Turkey.

But Some EU leaders are concerned about offering Turkey more concessions given its human rights record - particularly after the raid on the Zaman newspaper over the weekend, a publication that has been critical of the government in Ankara.

“I would assume that any country wishing to join the European Union would want to adhere to European standards,” Mr Kenny said. “This is a matter of very considerable concern now for a lot countries.”

He insisted that the root cause of the problem - the war in Syria - needed to be addressed in order to find a permanent solution to Europe’s migration crisis.

The crisis has reached breaking point, with EU countries from Sweden to Austria closing their borders after more than a million migrants arrived in the EU - mainly to Greece - last year.

The European Commission, intent on stemming the flow of people into the bloc, has proposed a new 1500-strong border and coast guard to reinforce the EU’s external borders and is set to end a requirement - known as the Dublin regulation - for asylum seekers to be registered in the first EU country they enter.

The bloc is struggling to make a success of last year's relocation scheme for 160,000 refugees, 4,000 of whom are to be transferred to Ireland from hotspots in Greece or Italy.

And last week the Commission set aside an extra €700m to provide food, shelter and medicine to EU countries that have been hardest hit by the influx of migrants.

“The symptoms of that root problem are being evidenced now in an overwhelming situation, an unprecedented situation within the EU, where for the first time you have humanitarian aid being supplied within the borders of the union,” Mr Kenny said. 

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