“The European Parliament has made a grave mistake by voting to introduce conditionality for development and humanitarian assistance by linking them to migration controls,” said Fianna Fáil MEP for Ireland South, Billy Kelleher.

Kelleher was commenting following the passage of a report entitled, “Improving development effectiveness and efficiency of aid” which included for the first time conditionality clauses on assistance to low-income countries.

“I voted against the final adoption of this file as two amendments were passed that reverses the European Parliament’s position that development aid must never be conditional on migration control.

“I am saddened and disappointed by the actions of my peers in the European Parliament, including a number of Irish MEPs, who voted against Ireland’s traditional position of keeping development and humanitarian assistance’s independent.

“Unfortunately, for some MEPs, the issue of supporting vulnerable people and communities in low-income countries has become entangled with the migration crisis.

“Yes, of course, there is a link. However, forcing countries to take back migrants in return for financial assistance is akin to bullyboy tactics. This crucially ignores the fact that the humanitarian situations, in which assistance helps to mitigate, is a driving factor of migration. This is not what the EU should stand for.

“Last year, I signed a pledge during the European Elections to ensure that EU aid is focussed on poverty eradication and the health, education and economic empowerment of the people who need it the most. I cannot, and will not, dilute this commitment by linking assistance to migration controls.

“I would also urge the Irish Government, through Irish Aid, to continue with its current development and humanitarian assistance strategies and not, in any way, link them to migration control.

“Ireland’s proud record on development and humanitarian assistance should continue with its sole focus of supporting the people and communities most in need, and ignore any attempts to link that assistance to other political concerns,” concluded Kelleher.