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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 19 February, 2019

Ireland WILL be taking in more refugees - but Charlie Flanagan's not saying how many

European ministers are holding crisis meetings today to respond to the latest Mediterranean migrant disasters.

A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy, this morning.
A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy, this morning.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said that Ireland will play a more active role in responding to the Mediterranean migrant crisis, and that will include taking in a greater number of refugees.

EU foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg today to discuss the deaths of migrants trying to cross from Africa. Justice and home affairs ministers – including Ireland’s Frances Fitzgerald are also due to attend later, it’s been confirmed.

The meeting follows the deaths of some 700 people yesterday in what may be the Mediterranean’s deadliest migrant disaster to date.

The latest tragedy comes after a week in which two other migrant shipwrecks left an estimated 450 people dead, with increasing boatloads coming from Libya as the North African country falls deeper into chaos.

Asked on RTÉ’s News at One if he would be walking into the meeting saying “Ireland is willing to take more, and substantially more of these people who are fleeing in substantial distress and danger,” the minister replied:

Very much so.

He said that the country’s foreign policy was “heavily informed by humanitarian considerations” – noting that a number of Syrians had already been settled here.

Syrian refugees

Around 90 Syrian refugees were resettled in Ireland last year.

Asked again to put a figure on how many more people the country might take in from the region, Flanagan said “I don’t think it’s a question of putting a figure or ticking a box.”

However, he added that he and Minister Fitzgerald would “engage with colleagues working towards finding solutions which will of course, will involve recipient states playing a more positive and active role”.

He said priority would be given to “the most vulnerable” – including unaccompanied mothers with their children, and people with disabilities.

Tackling the “unscrupulous human traffickers” who arrange the sea crossings would also be a priority at today’s meetings, Flanagan said.

Separately, the Interational Organisation for Migration said today that it had received a distress call from another sinking boat in the Mediterranean carrying more than 300 people – with at least 20 people reported dead.

Read: Distress signal from sinking ship with 300 people on board. Deaths reported

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