Adjournment Debate. - Irish Citizens in Iraq and Kuwait.

Wednesday, 28 November 1990

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 403 No. 2

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy John Bruton gave me notice of his intention to raise on the Adjournment the position of Irish residents in Iraq and Kuwait in view of the impending UN Security Council resolution sanctioning force to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Deputy Bruton has five minutes to present his case and the Minister for Foreign Affairs has five minutes to reply.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It appears certain that the United Nations Security Council will tomorrow sanction a resolution which will allow all necessary means to be used to eject Iraqi occupation forces from the Emirate of Kuwait. This essentially means that, as from 15 January next, United Nations forces or forces sanctioned by or with the consent of the United Nations will be able to claim the sanction of the United Nations to engage in military activities designed to eject the Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

That creates a serious situation from the point of view of the world at large but particularly from the point of view of the Irish people who still remain in Iraq and in Kuwait. The Government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs have shown an insufficient sense of urgency in seeking to have these people repatriated. After all the German and French Governments who are among the nations that are actually ranged against Iraq, the ones for whom one would expect least concessions, as against Ireland who has not taken such a forward position, have been able to have their nationals brought home. Meanwhile the Irish nationals remain. There is a particular irony in the fact that Irish employees of a German company, Mannesmann, must remain while their employers, the people who would normally be responsible for getting [551] visas for them to come home, have gone home to Germany and are unable to do anything for their Irish employees still in Iraq. That is most unfortunate for those people. The position of PARC's Irish employees and, indeed, that of all the other Irish people who have been left in what may well soon become a war zone without any hope of coming home, is equally unfortunate. As I said, I do not feel that the Government have shown they have the capacity to take effective action in this matter and it is for that reason I sought to raise it now. I hope as a result of this debate the Minister may inject some greater degree of urgency to get these people home in view of the impending United Nations Resolution which is due to come into effect on 15 January, 1991.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Collins): Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  I would like to thank Deputy Bruton for raising this matter on the Adjournment. The Government fully share his concern for the safety and welfare of those Irish trapped in Iraq and Kuwait as a result of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The House can be assured that we are sparing no effort to secure the release of all our citizens and their early return home. We can fully appreciate the sense of helplessness felt by those who have family members in these two countries. It is a matter of great concern that all those prevented from returning home should be enabled to do so at the earliest possible date.

The Deputy will be aware that I have on a number of occasions in this House detailed the comprehensive steps the Government have taken to ensure the safety and early release of those Irish citizens currently trapped in Iraq and Kuwait. Everything in our power to secure the maximum possible number of exit visas for our people there is being done. It must be remembered that it is not within our power to bring our citizens home without the agreement of the Iraqi [552] authorities. The Ambassador in Baghdad, on my instructions, continues to bring all possible pressure to bear to achieve the release of our citizens. I have raised this matter on two occasions with the Iraqi Ambassador to Ireland. I informed the Ambassador that the refusal to allow Irish people to leave Iraq and Kuwait was unacceptable and a breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iraq is a party. We have consistently demanded that their rights under international law to travel freely and to leave Iraq and Kuwait for a destination of their choice must be restored.

Since the invasion of Kuwait on 2 August all our efforts have been concentrated on getting over 400 citizens home as quickly as possible. These efforts have resulted in 77 per cent or 90 citizens who were in Kuwait returning home safely. Of the remaining 26 citizens, two men have secured exit visas and will leave shortly. In addition, two women and three children could have availed of evacuation arrangements but have chosen, for the moment, to remain. The other 19 men in Kuwait, of whom 16 are dual nationals, are free to leave for Iraq. We have advised them that while there are no guarantees of exit visas if they come to Baghdad, recent indications suggest that their chances of getting exit visas would be enhanced by their presence in that city.

On 2 August we had almost 300 citizens living in Iraq, the largest group of whom were working for the PARC Hospital in Baghdad. Exit visas have already been secured for 144 individuals. There are now 154 citizens left in Iraq, of whom 14 have exit visas and should leave shortly. The recently concluded agreement between PARC and the Iraqi Ministry of Health to allow the hospital services to be run down to a caretaker status by the middle of next month should result in the majority of those remaining in the hospital leaving that country within the next few weeks.

[553] Overall, 56 per cent or 233 citizens who were trapped in Kuwait and Iraq after the 2 August invasion are now home. We are hopeful that many more will be allowed to leave shortly and will be able to enjoy Christmas with their families.

We continue to base our approach on the principle which has guided us throughout the crisis, namely, our insistence that Iraq complies fully with all Security Council Resolutions. We hope that the international solidarity as manifested particularly in the Security Council and the effective implementation of the economic sanctions decided by the Security Council will force a reassessment in Baghdad of its current stance and will permit the crisis to be resolved without bloodshed.

It is, of course, our fervent hope that the crisis can be resolved in a peaceful way without recourse to military force. Such an outcome would clearly be in the best interest of all concerned.

Under Article 25 of the United Nations Charter, all United Nations members agree “to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council” in accordance with the Charter. Ireland as a member of the United Nations accepts this obligation. The charter goes on to specify further the kinds of measures that may be taken under it and the conditions under which they can be taken.

The terms of the Security Council Resolution will not, of course, be known until the debate in that body is conducted and the resolution has been voted upon. While, therefore, we must await the conclusion of this process, it is my hope that Iraq will take very serious account of the fact that, in an unprecedented manner, as evidenced by the adoption of ten Security Council Resolutions, the international community in general has expressed its rejection of Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait: the Security Council has also demanded that Iraq permit and facilitate the immediate departure from Kuwait and Iraq of all third state nationals who wish to leave and has [554] affirmed repeatedly that Iraq remains fully responsible for the safety and well being of foreign nationals in accordance with humanitarian law.

Finally, the sense of tension, frustration and distress felt by the relatives of those Irish citizens still in Iraq and Kuwait is fully understood. The House can rest assured that the Government will not cease their efforts to secure the early release of all our citizens in these countries and to press for a peaceful solution to this Gulf crisis.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  What about the Irish employees of a German company?

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