EU response has been 'shameful'
President Michael D Higgins has described Europe's delayed response to the Mediterranean migrant crisis as "grossly inadequate" and "shameful".
He said that he shares "a great sense of horror and outrage at the tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea".
Over 2,000 people have drowned trying to cross into Europe so far this year, including around 200 migrants this week.
Speaking at the opening of an Amnesty International meeting in Dublin, Mr Higgins said that the displacement of refugees and migrants was the "greatest human rights issue facing the world at this time".
"The rising level of conflict - particularly in many parts of Africa and the Middle East - is creating extraordinary levels of displacement and upheaval," he said.
Mr Higgins told those gathered at the meeting in Citywest that individual states like Ireland have helped to alleviate the crisis, but added that "the European response has not only been late, but grossly inadequate, with Italy, Spain, Malta and Greece left struggling to cope with large influxes of refugees and migrants".
"This failure can only be described as shameful and undermines both the ideal of the European Union and any prospect of that Union being an exemplar for international law and its instruments," he continued.
Mr Higgins said that he had seen the strife that drives migrants to Europe "first hand", having visited conflict-torn regions in Ethiopia and Beirut in recent months.
The President was giving the official opening address to the Amnesty International Council Meeting yesterday. Over 400 delegates from around the world will attend the meeting to decide on Amnesty's priority areas between 2016 and 2019.
Mr Higgins told them "leadership must be shown and governments held to account as to their human rights obligations to migrants and refugees".