Egyptian ambassador declines committee offer to discuss Ibrahim Halawa case

Nosayba (left) and Somaia Halawa, sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, protest against Ibrahim's detention.

The Egyptian ambassador has declined an invitation to appear before an Oireachtas committee and discuss the ongoing detention of Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa in a Cairo jail.

Separately, the foreign affairs committee heard calls yesterday for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to attend an UN summit on the migration crisis in September.

TDs and senators yesterday heard from NGOs that more than 3,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean so far this year and that the sea is in “danger of becoming a massive grave”.

During a private session before the debate on the migration crisis, members were also informed that a request by the Oireachtas for Egyptian ambassador Soha Gendi to appear was declined.

“Disappointed” members had wanted to speak to the ambassador regarding the ongoing imprisonment of Ibrahim Halawa, a Dubliner who has been in jail in Egypt for more than 1,000 days.

It is understood the refusal was communicated via a letter by Mr Gendi to Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl and that this was then made known to the committee.

Members warned that the case of Mr Halawa, whose trial has been postponed 14 times, needs to be handled sensitively.

Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien said: “There needs to be diplomatic sensitivity around this. If things are said, it could make it more difficult to repatriate him. This is another jurisdiction, where there is a separation of powers between the judiciary and the Government.”

The committee also heard from charity leaders working with migrants who have fled war-torn regions and are seeking refuge in Europe.

Oxfam Ireland chief Jim Clerkin said UN figures showed there were more than 65m displaced people in the world. Those who had fled across the Mediterranean had “fled for the most drastic reasons”.

More than 3,000 people have died this year trying to cross the sea, said Mr Clerkin. “There is a real danger of it becoming a massive grave in the future.”

Mr Clerkin and Suzanne Keating, of Dochas, an umbrella group for charities, both called for roundtable talks between NGOs and the Government ahead of a UN migration summit in September.

Charity chiefs also called for Mr Kenny to consider attending the summit, amid concern that there was a slow processing of refugees here and that more can be done for migrants.

Committee chair Brendan Smith said the considerations would be taken on board and a letter would be sent to the Government.


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