Human rights group call on Ireland to show "moral leadership" on refugee issue

The State’s independent human rights watchdog has criticised Ireland’s support for the EU-Turkey deal on the return of refugees and migrants.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission said the agreement represented a “disturbing European trend of regression from fundamental human rights values”.

It called on Ireland to show “moral leadership” in pushing to replace it with real protections for people fleeing Syria and other conflict zones. It said Ireland must improve its offer to take in 4,000 refugees by the end of 2017.

A meeting of the European Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee takes place today to review the agreement a month after it came into force, allowing refugees and migrants arriving on Greek islands via Turkey to be sent back before they get a chance to apply for asylum, with the intention that for each person returned, someone in an official refugee camp in Turkey would be resettled somewhere in Europe.

The commission said preventing refugees from seeking asylum and returning them to Turkey where their safety was in doubt ignored the EU’s duty to protect people fleeing persecution. “Offering protection to people fleeing systematic human rights violations is not optional, nor is it charity. It is a matter for Ireland and the EU of legal and moral obligation. The Irish government, and the EU, have failed to adequately meet this obligation,” it said.

It added the drowning this week of hundreds of African migrants in the Mediterranean showed the problem would not be solved by addressing the Greek-Turkey route alone.

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