Government handling of refugees is a disaster

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By Aontú

Most Irish people want to help those who are fleeing from violence, war and famine. Most Irish people want to be the Good Samaritan in this time of need. It must be said that, to date, many refugees and migrants have been welcomed successfully in many parts of Ireland.

However, the manner in how the government has handled the refugee process has been a disaster in many other areas and this government mismanagement is creating real division in Irish society.

People must be allowed to respectfully and openly discuss the government’s mismanagement of the migration and refugee issue without being called names. Many people have real and legitimate concerns in how the government is handling the refugee and international protection process. They are entitled to articulate these concerns. If you call people names for articulating real concerns, you simply push these concerns underground where they will be capitalised on by actual racists.

There must be consultation with communities. You can’t erect a wind turbine, a hotel or a block of apartments without consultation. Communities have a right to have a say over how their areas develop. Consultation must also include some level of consent. Its incredible to hear elected reps such as Aodhán O Riordán call people in East Wall names while he himself campaigned against housing and apartment developments in his own constituency.

There must be a community dividend. Much of the accommodation being provided for large groups of migrants are being located in working class areas. Why is this? This is a serious question that is not being answered. Why are asylum applicants not evenly distributed across the socio-economic divide?

Many working-class areas are already suffering from the lack of housing, GPs, school places and transport. Proposing to bring 500 people into an area that is deprived must be accompanied by a community dividend and real investment into housing and services.

The asylum application process is shockingly slow. People genuinely seeking asylum should have their applications processed within 6 month and those who are not genuine and who don’t fulfil the criteria should be sent home within 6 months. False applications take resources off those who really need them.

Those who destroy their travel documents to confuse the application process or make it slower and longer should be sent home. It must be remembered that this is a small cohort of people. Nonetheless we can’t afford to entertain for years those who are not asylum seekers but pretend to be.

Services or housing that are designed to help asylum seekers should be also available to Irish people in real need. For example, providing modular accommodation for asylum seekers and not for homeless Irish people is bound to sow division within society.

The government must, where possible, work out whether migrants have criminal records. Again, this is a tiny cohort but access to Ireland should not be given to those who have criminal convictions.

The government is far too reliant on hotels. Many jobs are dependent on a tourism industry. Unless alternative accommodation is found for refugees other than hotel accommodation the livelihoods of people will be hammered.

The same governmental incompetency that is evident in the housing crisis and the health service is also causing major problems within the refugee process. The Department have confirmed to Aontú in recent weeks that as part of the government’s white paper on ending Direct Provision they purchased 29 properties for use as reception/ accommodation centres for asylum seekers and refugees. As of last month, all but one of these properties were vacant.

Over 500 vacant buildings were identified for accommodating Ukrainian refugees last April last year. And yet Roderic O’Gorman told RTE Prime Time before Christmas that just 10 were operational.

In June the Minister said that the first batch of 500 modular homes would be delivered by October. None have been built and there is talk that February deadline will be moved. It was reported in September that over 85% of properties pledged for Ukrainian refugees have not been ‘activated. This incompetency is enormously damaging.

Finally, this state does have international responsibilities. We must do what we can. Minister Roderic O Gorman has stated that this country should prepare to accept many Climate Change refugees. There is a question of physics here. Where will they go? The inability of the government to provide housing, hospital beds, GPs and school places for the current population is already disaster. Reality and common sense must also play a part.

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