Friday, February 18, 2005

Government support EU protection rights for refugees in House

There are not many places in Europe that deny as many rights to legal citizens as Gibraltar, Chief Minister Peter Caruana candidly admitted yesterday in the House of Assembly during debate on a Bill to extend temporary EU protection rights to refugees.

Mr Caruana speaking in favour, said the object of this Europe wide provision was to provide help to persons displaced from their countries of origin as a result of political turmoil or upheaval in cases that results in a mass influx into any of the 25 member states who will share out the burden of assistance in proportion to their resources.

Meanwhile Leader of the Opposition Joe Bossano said his party would be voting against the Bill because the resources of the 25 member states that had accepted inclusion were not “those of a town of 30,000 inhabitants.”

Mr Bossano said there were also points of political principle in this bill and stated that the directive extended statutory rights that were being denied in Gibraltar to workers who had been living in our community for 30 years. Mr Bossano expressed other objections and argued that Gibraltar should have been given the option independently of Britain’s own decision to be included, and referred to the decision by Denmark and Ireland to opt-out of the legislation.

However Mr Caruana was dismissive of Mr Bossano’s analysis and denied that there was any question of principle. He stated that Gibraltar could not exercise any choice while also commenting that none of the fears raised by his intervention could actually materialise. Mr Caruana said it was Gibraltar itself that would have to assess what its resource capacity was and the result of this could be zero, one, two or three. He said there was no question of having to deploy resources beyond “what we consider able to deploy like good humanitarian Europeans.”

Mr Caruana added that this legislation also extended rights that other people in those countries may not themselves enjoy, but said that Gibraltar was “more backward” than others in Europe in how we dealt with these rights.

Earlier the Chief Minister explained that each territory, including Gibraltar will be required to make an assessment of its capacity to determine how many people it could receive in such a situation. It will be up to the European Commission to decide what constitutes a mass influx. Host nations would have to extend accommodation, medical care, education and social assistance rights to these refugees. Crimes against humanity will also come under the scope of this legislation.

Caruana Injured

Chief Minister Peter Caruana came in with a walking stick into the House of Assembly yesterday. Mr Caruana suffering pain in a leg is shortly due to go to hospital in Algeciras for an MRI scan. The meeting started at 2.30pm but was adjourned until 4.15pm because Mr Caruana said he had to attend to “urgent Government business.”

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