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Question

114. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, in view of the ongoing crisis in the Mediterranean concerning persons seeking to enter Europe, her plans to assist in this in terms of resettling persons and tackling the persons engaged in the exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20217/15]

Answer

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: This obviously is a very big issue for Europe and every country therein. We are all very conscious of the huge humanitarian crisis owing to people attempting to cross over from Libya and Syria. I had discussions on this issue yesterday with the Secretary General of the United Nations who praised Irish initiatives on resettlement. I announced recently that Ireland would take 300 additional refugees this year as a response to the European package of measures announced. Strictly on the basis of the quota, the number would have been fewer than 300, but, in fact, we had already agreed to take 150. That brings the total number of refugees who will be resettled by the end of the year and into next year to 450. Obviously, we are very conscious of the tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean, including, in April the loss of an estimated 800 lives in one incident. By taking the measures about which I have just informed the House, we are responding to what has been requested of us. We have dispatched the Irish naval vessel to assist in the humanitarian search and rescue tasks in the Mediterranean.
I have attended the various meetings of EU Justice and Home affairs Ministers. A broad range of conclusions has been arrived at and broad priorities have been laid out. They focus on a number of initiatives, including strengthening the European Union's presence at sea and interrupting and fighting traffickers in accordance with international law. Fighting traffickers is an essential part of our response. Another focus is preventing illegal migration flows. From the discussions yesterday with the Secretary General, it was very clear that, at European level, we needed to initiate more legal ways for people in need to gain access to all of our countries, whether it was through the use of more legal routes to enter countries, the granting of visas in particular circumstances or educational opportunities.