Open Letter to Minister Dara Murphy on EU-Turkey Deal

Fri, March 18, 2016


Dear Minister Murphy,

I am writing to you to express our severe concerns regarding the proposed EU-Turkey deal to be discussed at the European Council over the next few days.

As a human rights organisation based in Cork, we meet refugees and asylum seekers every day who have, in many cases, made extremely perilous journeys to seek out the safe haven and protection of Ireland’s shores. Over the past several years, that has included an ever increasing number of Syrians fleeing the war that has devastated their homeland and forced millions to flee to Europe.

We have a moral duty and a legal obligation to ensure that the human rights and dignity of every single person entering Europe are being respected, regardless of the manner in which they have arrived. The deal currently on the table to ‘swap’ Syrians – who’s applications for protection have yet to be lodged or considered – who have entered Europe with Syrians currently being accommodated in Turkey fundamentally undermines those duties and obligations.

Preventing people from the opportunity to claim asylum coupled with the planned mass expulsions from Greece would be illegal and in contravention of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the European Convention. If this alone is not persuasive enough, the proposed deal will also be wholly ineffective in stemming the flow of displaced people coming into Europe or in arresting the smugglers’ profitable trade in transporting those people.

We must face up to the reality of humanitarian crisis and propose alternatives that support and protect those who have already arrived in Europe and ensure safe and legal migration channels for those who will inevitably continue to come.

Ireland has an opportunity to take a lead in Europe and offer viable and effective alternatives to the proposals currently on the table. Ireland should propose the introduction of safe and legal migrations channels on a European level, including:

  • Establishing a humanitarian visa scheme such as the historic ‘Nansen passport’ or the programme currently operating in Brazil;
  • Increasing the current resettlement and relocation quotas for European countries and ensuring that this programme is adequately implemented and resourced;
  • Suspending the Dublin Regulations for the duration of the crisis to ensure responsibility -sharing across Europe.

At a national level, more can also be done to ensure Ireland is taking its fair share of the burden in responding to this crisis. This includes:

  • Lowering the income thresholds to facilitate family reunification for Syrians already legally residing or naturalised in Ireland;
  • Declining to commence Sections 56 & 57 of the International Protection Act, 2015, to allow those granted refugee status the broader rights to family reunification as defined in the Refugee Act, 1996;
  • Introducing a private resettlement scheme for Syrians, along the lines of the Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme, which operated for a limited time in 2014;
  • Increasing and accelerating the arrival of refugees and asylum seekers currently being accepted into the Irish Resettlement and Relocation Programme, which has to date has been slow.

These very viable recommendations would go some way towards a more effective and morally sound response to the current crisis. They would spread the responsibility amongst EU member states while protecting and supporting the human rights, dignity and safety of those fleeing conflict and persecution.

We cannot turn our backs to those in need and we cannot foist our burden onto an already over burdened third country. Europe is the heart of Western civilization with resources enough to do what we must. History will judge us by our inactions as well as our actions.

We are calling on you, Minister with Special Responsibility for European Affairs, to reject the proposed deal currently on the table and ensure that Ireland stays true to our core values as a nation.

Yours sincerely,

Fiona Finn
CEO Nasc, Ireland