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Fine Gael Criticised after MEPs Vote Against Migrant Rescue Efforts

The European Parliament rejected an EU resolution to increase search and rescue operations of migrants in the Mediterranean. The resolution called on 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.”

The proposed resolution lost by just two votes, and Fine Gael’s four MPs have come under fire after it came out that all of them— Mairead McGuinness, Maria Walsh, Frances Fitzgerald and Sean Kelly— voted against it.

Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh argued that the proposed resolution would incentivise more human trafficking and endanger more people. “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…We can do so much better than the text which was voted down by the Parliament today, which plays into hands of people smugglers and lacks workable solutions,” she wrote on twitter.

“[The proposed plan] would endanger more lives by facilitating, instead of dismantling, the business models of smugglers and human traffickers. We could not support that.”

Fine Gael has faced sharp criticism on this policy from fellow MEPs, who all voted in favour or do not have their votes recorded. Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson stated, “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…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.”

There have been over 1000 drownings in the Mediterranean in 2019, according to the Missing Migrants project. Last year, 34,361 were recorded as having drowned by the NGO United for Intercultural Action.

The vote occurred just two days after 39 people were found dead in a lorry in Essex while attempting to seek asylum in the UK. Three people have been arrested on charges of manslaughter and human trafficking in relation to the case