In 2019, following the European elections, I was appointed to the European Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights (DROI). This Committee is responsible for overseeing respect for human rights around the world as part of the EU’s external policies. The DROI committee organises exchanges of views, hearings, missions, press statements and follow-up to the urgency resolutions which are debated in the Parliament’s plenary sessions.
I remained a member of the DROI Committee until December 2020. My work involved scrutinising the implementation of EU human rights policy and its impact, and looking closely at how this policy contributes to the overall promotion of respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy in the EU’s partner countries.
We worked closely with a broad range of Human Rights actors, such as UN counterparts, representatives of regional human rights organisations, partner country officials, national human rights institutions, and international, regional and local civil society organisations. The work of the DROI Committee aims to ensure that Human Rights are not only maintained but prioritised across all policy areas dealt with by the European Parliament.
Despite no longer being a member of the DROI Committee, I continue to work to strengthen Human Rights.
Every plenary session in Strasbourg, Parliament holds debates on issues of an urgent nature relating to serious breaches of Human Rights around the world. Since I was first elected as an MEP in 2009, I have contributed to these debates and resolutions. I feel they are vitally important as they give us an opportunity to put a spotlight on these issues, and call for international action to put a halt to the Human Rights abuses in Question. The urgency resolutions we adopt following the debates can be found here.
Past examples of Human Rights violations I have spoken strongly against have been the treatment of LGBTI people in Uganda, the case of Ukrainian Political Prisoners, and the case of Ibrahim Halawa, the Irish student who was at the time imprisoned in Egypt having been arrested at a protest. Our Parliamentary resolution on his case was an important step in efforts to have Ibrahim returned home to Dublin to resume his studies.
We have a moral obligation to save lives in the Mediterranean and fight human traffickers. My colleagues in the Fine Gael delegation and I have always called for a better, higher-capacity EU response to rescue missions in order to save more lives and will continue to do so.
In March 2016, I voted in favour of an EPP-led European Parliament report on the situation in the Mediterranean, which underlined that saving lives must be a first priority. It called for Search and Rescue (SAR) capacities to be strengthened and for Member States’ governments to deploy more resources in the context of a Union-wide humanitarian operation, dedicated to finding, rescuing and assisting migrants in peril and bringing them to the closest place of safety.
In October 2019, I voted in favour of an EPP Group Resolution, which called on Member States and Frontex to step up their efforts in support of SAR operations in the Mediterranean. The Resolution also urged the Commission to replace existing ad-hoc solutions with a new, more sustainable, reliable and permanent approach to SAR, and to provide material, financial and operational support to Member States for the purpose of better coordinating SAR operations. Underlining that all NGO rescue vessels should be part of the solution, the Resolution also called “on all actors in the Mediterranean to transmit information related to persons in distress at sea to the competent authorities for search and rescue”.
Another resolution on the same subject was tabled for plenary vote on the same day. This resolution, led by the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group, called for all vessels to bypass Rescue Coordination Centres and disseminate information to any boat in the Mediterranean without any filter. It made no distinction between those vessels saving lives and any other vessels, with all the security risks that that brings with it. It would have meant a fundamental shift in how rescues are conducted and created a situation which would benefit human traffickers, run contrary to current maritime practice, muddy the chain of command on the high seas and simply put the lives of everyone involved – both migrants and rescuers – at risk. This addition to the text blurred the overall objective: to save lives at sea. Therefore, my Fine Gael colleagues and I voted against it. The EPP Group tabled its own aforementioned alternative Resolution that clarified this point.
New Migration Policy
I am working with my colleagues in Fine Gael and in Europe to ensure increased and more effective SAR operations and an effective and fair new EU migration policy that is grounded in meaningful solidarity and that fully respects fundamental human rights as well as international and EU law. The policy must be fair to those in need of international protection while fighting the organised criminals and human traffickers that exploit the most vulnerable.
To that end, we are urging all Member States to come to the negotiating table in a constructive manner in order to reach consensus during negotiations on the proposed New Pact on Migration and Asylum this parliamentary term. We will continue to closely follow these negotiations.