180. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the activities of Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab are being contained by the international community or the African Union; if the release of girls and women kidnapped over the past number of years continues to be pursued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 3523/17 asked on 25 Jan 2017)

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe McHugh): Over the past months the Nigerian Government has led efforts in the region against Boko Haram. These efforts have been supported by the international community. The EU has pledged up to €50 million in support of the Multinational Joint Taskforce, which supports 8,700 troops from Nigeria and neighbouring countries to promote regional security. Despite recent progress by Nigerian and regional armed forces, violence by Boko Haram remains a serious threat to the peace and security of Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad region. Ireland has consistently condemned the violence and human rights violations perpetrated by Boko Haram. Last year, we provided €3.1m in humanitarian assistance for the crisis in the region, and our Embassy in Abuja has been active in monitoring developments.

The release of women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram continues to be a priority for the international community. Ireland has consistently called for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted in April 2014. We welcomed the news in October 2016 of the release of 21 girls following talks facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss Government. Since then, the Nigerian army has also reported finding another schoolgirl in the north of Borno state. These girls should be provided with all possible assistance to support their full reintegration into society and their return to education.

The group Al-Shabaab remains a threat to the peace, stability and prosperity of Somalia and neighbouring countries in the Horn of Africa. The international community plays an important role in containing the violence and instability caused by its actions.

The United Nations, African Union and European Union are all engaging actively in Somalia. The African Union peacekeeping Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, is mandated by the UN Security Council to reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and to enable the gradual handover of security responsibility to Somali security forces. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) is tasked with supporting peacebuilding and state-building in Somalia. The EU contributes through the funding of AMISOM, as well as supporting two missions in Somalia, the EU Training Mission in Somalia and EUCAP Somalia, which aims at strengthening Somalia’s maritime security and capacity to effectively govern its waters.

Ireland has responded consistently to humanitarian needs in Somalia. Last year, we contributed just under €6 million in humanitarian assistance to Somalia. During my visit to Kenya last month, I held discussions in Nairobi on the situation in Somalia and the wider region and on the assistance which Ireland might provide in the future.