Sunday 25 February 2018

'Extraordinarily disappointing and morally questionable' - sharp criticism from Tanaiste on Trump's immigration restrictions

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Arthur Carron
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Arthur Carron
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Collins
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Alan O'Keeffe

President Trump's ban on refugees entering the US was sharply criticised as "extraordinarily disappointing" and "morally, totally questionable" by Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald today.

 The Justice Minister said   "We've never needed an international response to refugees more than the world needs it at present.

"So in that context, what's happened in America is extraordinarily disappointing. I think it's morally, totally questionable.

"I think Ireland has reacted very quickly. We've sent our foreign minister immediately (to the US) to make our views known on this issue."

The Tanaiste was speaking as she arrived at a seminar in Dublin on Ireland's response to the global refugee and migration crisis. The seminar was organised by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The refugee crisis has never needed a comprehensive response as much as it is needed now, she said.

"We have 65 million people who are refugees around the world and we see the tragic situation in Syria," she said.

The Tanaiste was deeply concerned about the complete ban on refugees "in a country that has always been so welcoming of immigrants, including Irish immigrants, it's been there in our hour of need and you'd like to think it would be there in the hour of need of so many refugees internationally."

She said the ban will be challenged in the US courts.

She said a review concerning preclearance services by US officials at two Irish airports will be done very quickly and having the facility was a benefit to Ireland and Irish people.

"At all times, people who are in the preclearance facility are in Irish territory, obviously, and the Constitution, the laws of Ireland apply.

"But if we want to use the preclearance facility, people go into that of their own free will under American immigration laws. And American immigration laws can only and will be tested in the American courts.

"But it's a facility that is beneficial for Irish people and international travellers.

"It's the American immigration laws that we are so concerned about and once you go into preclearance, that's what applies," she said.

She said Ireland should discuss those laws politically and act on them politically and deal with the matter through diplomatic channels. Ireland should make its views known widely.

The focus should be on challenging the US immigration laws, not on the preclearance issue, she said.

 Asked about pressure on the Taoiseach from some quarters that he should not accept any invitation to visit  the White House on St Patrick's Day, she said  Ireland has very strong Constitutional protection on freedom in relation to religion and was very clear about international obligations about equality and refugees.

She said "I think it is very important that the Taoiseach goes to America. And that our minister has already gone and is already making our views known.

"I don't believe in standing aside. I believe in being there, expressing our views and continuing to engage.

"We have all sorts of links with America. As a good friend of America we need to speak out and give our views on this.  At the end of the day it is American courts, it is international public opinion, it is international human rights that are going to determine the final outcome of this," she said.

Matters are now becoming clearer. Already, the passport and green card situations have been clarified, she said.

Mr Trump's actions on refugees and immigrants were done "far too quickly without proper preparation.

"We've seen the confusion at airports around the world," she said.

She said this issue and the issue of undocumented Irish in the US needs to be dealt with.

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