Dáil Diary no 15 – 14th October 2016
Demolition of Calais Refugee Camp is a Humanitarian Disaster. Do we care?
There are reports today, Friday the 14th October, that police in full riot gear are gathering in numbers at entrances to the Jungle camp at Calais, and that they’ve brought a water cannon with them. What is going to happen to all the unaccompanied minors in the camp? The Irish Government have been complicit in forcing them to become refugees. We allowed the US Military to destroy the homes and communities of these people. And now we turn our back on them and argue that Calais is not an official camp- not an official camp? Are the unaccompanied minors official? Are they real people? Here’s my speech in the Dáil yesterday on what can only be described as a humanitarian disaster, just across the water from us…
Mick Wallace: “There could hardly have been a more blatant demonstration of the blindness of the warmongers in this House as when the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were crying war crimes against Russia and the Syrian Government last week. When the US led coalition started bombing the daylights out of Syria in September 2014, Deputies had nothing to say, even though the death toll tripled almost immediately. As our trade partner Saudi Arabia, and friends, continue to do daily war crimes in Yemen, indiscriminately killing civilians with tanks, combat aircraft, air to ground missiles, white phosphorous and cluster bombs, sold to them by the United States, Deputies say nothing. The Russians followed in to Syria - about one year after the French and US involvement - in order to boost their friend Bashar al-Assad. We have never, ever defended the Russian position, but neither will we defend the United States', the French or the Saudi position in Syria. I find it nauseating that people in this House will actually select who they will criticise of those who are bombing any country. As a neutral State that does not want to take part in war we should be criticising anyone who bombs anywhere. Last week the Unites States' war in Afghanistan was 15 years old. I was at a commemoration for it in Shannon on Sunday. Ireland has been with the United States every step of the way, bending over backwards for the US war machine. A group of physicists in the United States - because the US military does not count bodies, it is all just collateral damage - have researched statistics that show that up to 2.1 million civilians have been killed by the United States military since 2001 in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is horrific and Ireland has helped the United States with the use of Shannon Airport. Today, 1,000 unaccompanied minors face eviction from Calais and we are not prepared to help them. I recall Members saying in the House that unaccompanied minors would be picked out for special concern, but we have done nothing about them. To the best of my knowledge there has been just one unaccompanied minor brought in to Ireland in the last two years.
Where do these unaccompanied minors come from? Only from countries the US has bombed the living daylights out of, and we allowed the US to use Shannon Airport to do so. Now we are not prepared to do anything for these people. The French have admitted they are about to clear the southern side of the camp in Calais. They cleared the northern side in the spring and 129 unaccompanied minors disappeared. I do not want to go into where we suspect they may have ended up. It is horrific. There are more than 1,000 of them in the camp and the southern side of the camp is about to be cleared by the French, despite the fact that up to eight NGOs in France are trying to take legal action to stop it. Several weeks ago, I heard the Minister state here that it was a good idea to clear the camp. It is horrific. The British have agreed to take in 300 and the French state they have capacity to cope with 276 of these minors. Can Ireland step up to the mark and do something? Can we play some sort of a role, given that we do not have clean hands because of our facilitation of Shannon Airport to the US military? I ask the Minister of State to talk to the people who make the decisions.
Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): I am taking this topical issue debate on behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality who cannot be here this afternoon. As the Tánaiste recently outlined in responses to a number of parliamentary questions on this issue, we should be clear there is no official refugee or migrant camp in Calais. Calais does not fall under the EU relocation or resettlement decisions that Ireland has opted into, and therefore the people in Calais are not eligible for the Irish refugee protection programme because they are under the jurisdiction of the French authorities and have the right to apply for international protection in France….
Mick Wallace: The Minister of State said Calais is not an official camp so we cannot touch it. Well my God, most places where refugees gather are fairly unofficial. The chances of people fleeing from a place because some country like the US or Russia has bombed the living daylights out of it getting to an official camp are not always great. Travellers have often set up camp on the side of the road in Ireland and they are not always official. There have been hot spots. We are speaking about Italy, Greece and, I believe, we have even looked at Lebanon. We are cherry picking. We have gone out of our way to avoid doing what we should do. We are in denial about the fact we are partially responsible for the fact these people do not feel safe in their homes anymore.
It is mind-boggling that the EU is doing a deal with Afghanistan to return migrants in Europe to there. I met people from Afghanistan in the camps in the Calais and Dunkirk. My God, the thoughts of them having to be returned home are a cause of huge concern. They had fallen out with either ISIS or the Taliban, or a member of their family may have worked with the US forces. They would be killed if they went home. It is bad enough that Pakistan is in the process of expelling 3 million refugees back to Afghanistan and the west does not give a damn. Who invaded Afghanistan in the first place? It was the US in 2001, with our help through Shannon Airport. We destroyed the place.
God help us and save us, do not tell us Calais is an unofficial camp. So many Irish people have been there trying to help these people survive. I have text on my telephone from a fellow called Abdul. I met him out there. He is fucking dead. He died two or three weeks ago. He fell off a truck and the truck behind him ran over him. We could do something for these people if we cared. I wish the Government would just do something.”
Here's a YouTube of my Speech