Belfast Telegraph

Martina Anderson only Northern Ireland MEP to vote in favour of stepping up Mediterranean search-and-rescue

Sinn Fein MEP for Northern Ireland, Martina Anderson
Sinn Fein MEP for Northern Ireland, Martina Anderson

By Eimear McGovern

Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson is the only MEP from Northern Ireland to vote in favour of a proposal for the European Union to step up search-and-rescue operations for refugees in the Mediterranean.

It's after Fine Gael MEPs Mairead McGuinness, Maria Walsh, Frances Fitzgerald, and Sean Kelly defended voting against the proposal, which was defeated by just two votes on Thursday.

No votes were recorded for the DUP MEP Diane Dodds. The party has been approached for a comment.

Alliance leader and fellow MEP Naomi Long said an urgent appointment in Belfast meant she was unable to attend the vote.

Ms Long is a member of the Renew Europe grouping in the European Parliament and Fine Gael MEPs are a member of the EPP grouping the largest in the parliament.

"I wasn't aware EPP were voting against last night at our group meeting: at that stage it looked like it would pass," said Ms Long.

"I was in favour of the motion. As in any job, there will be clashes and times when you can't be present."

Northern Ireland MP Martina Anderson, said: "It is a matter of deep shame that four Fine Gael MEPs actively voted to maintain a ‘fortress Europe’ status quo that has seen thousands of men, women and children drown simply for seeking sanctuary."

Speaking to the PA news agency, she said: "The motion fell by two votes, further adding to a damning record of the EU on the deepening humanitarian crisis.

"While Fine Gael wax lyrical about the 'four freedoms' of the EU, including the freedom of movement, they are ready to side with their right-wing EU colleagues to ensure these values don't extend to those fleeing destitution, war and persecution."

The vote was held just one day after 39 Chinese nationals were found dead in a lorry in Essex, believed to have been smuggled into the UK.

The resolution called for EU member states to “enhance proactive search and rescue operations by providing sufficient vessels and equipment specifically dedicated to search and rescue operations and personnel, along the routes where they can make an effective contribution to the preservation of lives” in the Mediterranean.

There have been 1,078 recorded drownings in the Mediterranean in 2019, according to the Missing Migrants Project.

Other Irish MEPs, including Green MEPs Ciarán Cuffe and Grace O'Sullivan, Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy, and Independents Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Mick Wallace backed the resolution, while Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher and independent Clare Daly did not record votes.

Mr Carthy said afterwards there were “serious questions” for Fine Gael after they failed to back the motion.

But responding to the criticism in a statement on Thursday, Ms Walsh defended the move on behalf of herself and her three Fine Gael colleagues in the Parliament.

“We want to save lives and fight human traffickers and to do that, we need a coherent, comprehensive and long-term EU response to Search and Rescue in the Mediterranean,” she said.

“In the short-term, the EU and Member States must allocate more resources to Search and Rescue and increase missions to save more lives.

"We also need to urgently step up the fight against the organised criminals and human traffickers who profit on the vulnerable.

"The Resolution rejected by the European Parliament today does the opposite by calling for Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, to share intelligence about its operational activities with every boat in the Mediterranean.

"That would endanger more lives by facilitating, instead of dismantling, the business models of smugglers and human traffickers. We could not support that,” she added.







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