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Rubbish buildsing up around the tents outside the International Protection Office today. Rolling News
mount st

Taoiseach accused of 'pandering to fears whipped up by far-right' in asylum seeker comments

The head of the Irish Network Against Racism called on Varadkar to “show better leadership”.

THE DIRECTOR OF the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR) has implored the Taoiseach to “show better leadership”, after Leo Varadkar said that he would tell asylum seekers passing through safe countries that accommodation cannot be guaranteed to them here. 

Varadkar’s comments came in response to a question about the Government’s plans to address the growing crisis happening in the Mount Street area of Dublin, where up to 200 asylum seekers are living in deteriorating conditions in tents outside the International Protection Office.

Speaking in the US, the Taoiseach told The Journal on Tuesday that he would have “no difficulty” visiting the asylum seekers in the tents, but that he didn’t think a visit from him will “change the situation”. 

He said that the reality is that the State has run out of accommodation to offer, and an increasing number of people are applying for protection here.

Citing the increase in people seeking international protection here in recent years he described it as “a very challenging situation”. 

Varadkar said: “If you are passing through a safe country, whether it is Britain or France, we cannot guarantee you accommodation in Ireland anymore, and I just have to be honest about that.”

Shane O’Curry, INAR director, today said that there is “no evidence” to suggest that any, let alone the majority of the asylum seekers living in the tents, had passed through safe countries. 

“I don’t think the Taoiseach could have evidence suggesting that, because it just isn’t available,” he said. 

O’Curry added that even when this is the case, the State still has an obligation under international law to provide accommodation to people while their asylum applications are being processed. 

“We are in breach of our international obligations as it stands,” he said. 

O’Curry added that, in his view, the Taoiseach’s comments amounted to “pandering to the kind of fears that have been whipped up by the far-right, and legitimising what the far-right are saying, which is framing a very vulnerable set of people as inherently problematic”. 

The INAR director said that Varadkar’s comments were “not the stuff of democratic politics.”

The State ran out of accommodation to offer asylum seekers back in September, after multiple warnings from the Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman that supply was running low.
Since then the Department of Integration has been prioritising women, children and families when offering accommodation that does come on stream. It has said that “significant local opposition” has made it difficult to source accommodation for single men.
The Department of Integration has also stated that a record number of people are applying for protection in Ireland. 
“The highest ever monthly arrivals of people seeking protection occurred in January and in February of this year (approximately 1,800 and 1,600 respectively),” a spokesperson said. 

250Homeless_90700317 Tents belonging to asylum seekers in Dublin city.

According to figures published by the Department of Integration, there are 1,260 people who have applied for international protection in Ireland who are still waiting for an offer of accommodation. Volunteers estimate that almost 200 of them are sleeping rough in Dublin city. 

The conditions in the makeshift campsite in the Mount Street area have seriously deteriorated in the last two weeks.

People living in the camp told The Journal this week that they have experienced a number of attacks, including one incident where a group of men hit their tents with sticks during the night, while they were trying to sleep. 

There have also been repeated incidents where people have driven through the street where the tents are set up, beeping their car horns repeatedly. 

Videos of these incidents have remained online on platforms such as Facebook and X, despite having been reported. 

O’Curry today said that the current situation is a result of a policy which INAR has warned the Government about “for years”. 

“If you don’t have a plan in place for orderly migration and orderly reception of people seeking international protection, you are laying the groundwork that allows these racist attacks to take place in several ways. 

“You are leaving people in very vulnerable positions which is wrong and an immoral breach of our obligations, and you are providing a target and fuel for far right discourse, by amplifying the perception of resource competition between people seeking International Protection, and people from socio-economically deprived areas.”

He said that the reception model that has been offered to Ukrainian refugees is a “very good example” of the system that should be in place for all asylum seekers. 

“The swiftness with which they were accommodated and provided with documentation, and the way barriers to their integration in society were removed, that is what we should be extending to everyone in this situation,” O’Curry said.

He added that when there is a proper system that assists integration, inward migration can “benefit and rejuvenate”communities. 

O’Curry said that the Government’s current policy of having a different system for Ukrainians compared to the one in place for people from other countries, “a subliminal message is given through Government neglect, that some migrants are less deserving than others.”

INAR is a network of nearly 160 anti-racism organisations that work to highlight and address racism in Ireland. The group is part of the European Network Against Racism, which is based in Brussels, and made up of organisations from over 30 European states.