1 April 2019 - Responding to reports that the Irish Naval presence in the Mediterranean will cease and Operation Sophia will be downscaled and end in six months, the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition today expressed serious concerns. The The Coalition comprises 23 organisations that seek to advance the rights and dignity of people on the move and those in need of international protection.

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, the current convenor of the Coalition, said,

“While the number of people trying to cross the Mediterranean has decreased, the risk of death has increased. We have commended the Irish navy presence in the Mediterranean, which has rescued more than 18,000 people, and also Ireland’s acceptance of 58 people from different NGO rescue boats. We call on the Irish Government to try to work with other EU governments with a view to maintaining the presence of the Irish navy and to continue but improve Operation Sophia. Moreover, we need a complete overhaul of the EU approach to this issue: real solidarity with countries like Greece and Italy, safe and legal routes to protection, planned contingency for rescue boats and ceasing push back to Libya. This is an opportunity for Ireland to lead on these issues.”

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said,

“This is an outrageous abdication of EU governments responsibilities. Having already used every excuse in the book to banish NGO rescue boats from the Mediterranean, and having already stopped carrying out rescues several months ago, EU governments are now removing their own ships, leaving no-one to save the lives of women, men and children in peril. EU governments will continue to use aerial surveillance to alert the Libyan Coast Guard when refugees and migrants are spotted at sea, so they can be taken back to Libya, despite knowing that people there are arbitrarily detained and exposed to widespread torture, rape, killings and exploitation.”

Siobhán McGee, Chief Executive Officer of ActionAid Ireland said,

“The 1951 Refugee Convention, in the wake of World War II, established the right to special protection for those fleeing persecution. Ireland as an EU leader must uphold this fundamental principle, rather than aiding and abetting the further persecution of refugees. ActionAid’s experience in both the home countries and receiving countries of migrants tells us that walls, barbed wires and guns will not stop desperate people from seeking a better future. Ireland’s response must find solutions based on the legal frameworks and human rights principles to which we are already committed; instead of rowing back, Ireland can and should do more, along with other EU leaders, to increase resources for the real integration of migrants, who have so much to offer our societies”.

- ENDS -
Notes for Editors 
  • The Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition was founded in August 2015, and is comprised of 23 leading Irish organisations that seek to advance the rights and dignity of people on the move and those in need of international protection.
  • Council of the EU Press release 29/03/2019 12:05, EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia: mandate extended until 30 September 2019
  • In October 2017 the Coalition published ‘Pathways to Protection and Inclusion, Ireland’s role in global refugee protection and migration movements’ which included recommendations on safe and legal pathways to protection.
  • European Council on Refugees and Exiles op-ed: Last Breath of Operation Sophia Should Push Coalition of the Willing
  • Coalition members include Action Aid Ireland, Amnesty International Ireland, Association of Leaders of Missionaries & Religious of Ireland, Christian Aid Ireland, Comhlamh, Community Work Ireland, Crosscare, Cultur, Dochas, Doras Luimni, ENAR Ireland, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Irish Refugee Council, Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland, Mercy International, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Oxfam Ireland, Trocaire, World Vision International