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Tánaiste accepts need to address people’s fears about immigration with evidence-based approach

He said there are no reports of increases in crime in areas where there are direct provision centres housing asylum seekers.

TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has said government needs to “create a better narrative” around the migration question, stating it has an “obligation to ease any concerns that people might have” with an evidence-based approach. 

Responding to questions from reporters at Government Building today, the foreign affairs minister added that there are no reports of increases in crime in areas where there are direct provision centres housing asylum seekers.

“We’ve had centres for decades now where migrants have come in and have stayed in direct provision centres, for example, and there’s no appreciable increase in crime in any of those locations.

“I think we do need to challenge that narrative much more robustly than perhaps it has been challenged,” he said. 

The Tánaiste said Ireland’s “broader story” of migration had been “a very positive one”, adding that the “richness” and “diversity” in schools in particular should be “cherished”.

“I do think we have to create a better narrative around the entire situation in terms of communicating the issue,” Martin said today.

The word “unvetted” had been “thrown around” in the the Dáil more frequently, he said, stating there is an obligation to ease concerns where people are genuinely afraid.

“There has to be rules and there are rules, and that’s not probably understood widely, and there is a legal framework here and we’ve got to continue to see if we can we improve that legal framework.

Martin said that Brexit is a lesson on pursuing “knee-jerk” policies in response to a surge in migration that can be damaging and ultimately not have any impact.

“But what’s interesting also, if you look at other countries and jurisdictions where the narrative has got stronger, say in terms of a more moderate, right-wing view on things, Brexit happened because of migration, or I would argue the tipping point in terms of how that debate was conducted was somehow ‘we’ll take back control’ and that ‘we’ll reduce migration if we leave the European Union’.

“After Brexit, if you look at the figures most recently, migration continues to go up in the United Kingdom. Brexit has had no appreciable impact on it.

“So I think that’s a lesson to us, that we can get into knee-jerk policy responses because of the migration challenge, which could be dangerous and damaging to the country and will not have any impact anyway in terms of what, in my view, is ultimately a function of how the world is working or not working in many respects.”