20th April, 2015

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, today attended an extraordinary joint meeting of EU Foreign Affairs Ministers and EU Home Affairs Ministers called in response to recent tragic events in the Mediterranean.

Speaking after the meeting Minister Flanagan said:

"Minister Fitzgerald and I share the total horror at this weekend's tragedy, indeed the many recent tragedies, in the Mediterranean.

Ireland strongly shares the concern of our EU and Southern partners and we agree that solutions must be found jointly to address a humanitarian crisis on this scale.

We need to address the human safety and organised crime aspects of this crisis. However, more than anything, people need to be safe in their home countries and for this sustainable political solutions to conflicts are essential.

We will continue to assist people affected by conflict and persecution, particularly those affected by the crisis in Syria, where Ireland has provided over €32million in humanitarian support since 2011. Ireland is also strongly committed to helping those affected by less high profile crises, including many in Africa. It is through assistance of this type that we can reduce the pressure on people to risk their lives attempting to reach Europe."

Minister Fitzgerald said that a new ten-point European Commission plan to tackle the crisis was tabled and was welcomed by Ministers as a good basis for follow-up. She added:

"I joined with my fellow EU Ministers today in expressing our horror at the recent events in the Mediterranean, and reiterating our determination to take collective action to protect vulnerable migrants.

The EU as a whole and its Members States clearly need to use all law enforcement resources and tools available to tackle the organised criminal gangs involved in the smuggling and trafficking of migrants.

We will continue to play our part through our resettlement programme, which allows us to bring refugees directly to live in Ireland from conflict affected regions. We have also instituted the Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Programme, which allows relatives of Irish residents and citizens to come Ireland."

The EU's response to the current crisis in the Mediterranean will be further considered at a meeting of EU leaders taking place on Thursday, 23 April.