The European Council’s latest pronouncement on asylum seekers is ‘solely the narrative of the far-right,’ according to a Fianna Fáil MEP.
Barry Andrews was speaking after EU leaders agreed on a package of tougher rules aimed at reducing the numbers of asylum seekers arriving into the bloc.
The rules will make it easier for countries to expel asylum seekers whose applications have been refused – and make asylum decisions made by one EU country binding across the bloc.
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “pilot projects” would look to implement “fast and fair asylum procedures” at the bloc’s external borders.
Leaders attending the EU summit also called on the commission to set aside funds for new border protection infrastructure – including surveillance, aerial surveillance and equipment.
President Von der Leyen has repeatedly said the EU will not pay for reinforced fences at EU borders; however, officials have noted that funding watchtowers, cameras and other infrastructure will free up funds for countries to build their own fences.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Fianna Fáil MEP Barry Andrew said the agreement was ‘very disappointing’ – agreeing that the EU was now pushing out a ‘Fortress Europe’ narrative.
“It is very disappointing to hear this narrative now dominating this discussion because as far as I’m concerned, it ignores the other side of the coin,” he said.
“No mention has been made over the last two days about human rights, about search and rescue about the impunity of the pushbacks that are occurring.
“The idea that walls can stop migration is a total distraction.
“There is no example in history where walls have been successful in stopping migration.”
He said the discussion must be balanced to ensure Europe continues to offer safety to people fleeing from war and persecution.
“What I’m hearing from the European Council is solely the narrative of the far-right,” he said.
“It is, strengthen the borders, no more search and rescue, nothing about pushbacks – and that needs to be balanced with the humanitarian view.
“That is why I find it disappointing what I’m hearing at the moment.”
Speaking at the summit yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the EU needed to secure its borders to prevent human trafficking and called for rejected asylum seekers to be deported.
He said refugees are welcome in Ireland but we “need to be firm with people who come to Ireland with a false story or false pretences”.
Mr Andrews said the Irish government was failing to put forward the other side of the argument – that Europe must remain welcoming to people in need of asylum.
“I heard the Taoiseach admonish Mick Barry in the Dáil about inadvertently leaning into the far-right narrative,” he said. “But what is happening at the European Council is exactly the same thing but on a much larger scale.
“It is vindicating the far-right narrative.
“The very idea that the Europe that tore down walls both physical and psychological for the last 70 years would now erect wall at its borders, to me, is really quite shocking.”
He said he had no issue with what the Taoiseach said – but was concerned about “what he didn’t say”.
“He didn’t talk about what is happening in Libyan detention centres,” he said.
“He should have condemned the idea of walls being built at the external borders of the EU and he should have called out illegal pushbacks at the borders.”
Last week, Newstalk’s Chief Reporter Barry Whyte revealed that over 5,000 asylum seekers arriving in Ireland last year had no valid travel documents.
The Government has since decided to step up checks at the steps of planes arriving at Dublin Airport and to speed up checks on asylum seekers arriving in Ireland from so-called 'safe' countries.
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