A complete collapse in the Dublin government’s immigration policy has led to homeless asylum seekers being attacked in the streets and a makeshift camp getting burned out by racists.
Tents in the Sandwith Street area of Dublin were torched on Friday evening after Gardai left the scene of a right-wing ‘protest’. It followed earlier clashes as anti-immigration protesters. including a number of violent racists faced off, against left-wing groups and anti-fascists who were supporting the asylum seekers.
The violence took place close to the city’s ironically titled ‘International Protection Office’. Some of those involved in the trouble are known to have links to loyalist racists in the North and to far-right groups in Britain.
It is understood that the migrant camp was set up during the May bank holiday weekend. A number of asylum-seekers who were sleeping in the vicinity of the International Protection Office decided to move to an alley off Sandwith Street for safety reasons after coming under attack.
A tense stalemate endured for several hours as Gardaí kept the two sides apart. It was widely reported that they gave permission for the small camp to be wrecked once they had escorted the terrified refugees away.
Following the burning of the camp, the Irish Refugee Council condemned the “shocking and disgraceful scenes”.
In a social media post, a spokesperson for the group hit out at a “tiny minority” whose actions were “in stark contrast to Irish communities’ proud history of welcome”.
Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, said asylum seekers forced to sleep rough had been left in an incredibly vulnerable position.
“We’re working with people who’ve been robbed, assaulted, had health conditions brought on by being homeless,” he said.
“People are trying to sleep in train stations, Busáras, sitting on a Garda station lobby chair for the night.”
The continued failure to provide asylum seekers with accommodation represented an “unprecedented” breakdown in Ireland’s response to refugees, he added.
Nasc, a charity that works with migrants, said it was fortunate no one was injured in the “horrific” fire.
“How terrifying the experience must have been for those who came to Ireland seeking safety, only to find themselves without shelter and facing attack,” the group said.
A failure to source adequate accommodation or to manage the flow of refugees has created havoc as councils struggle to house refugees, often smuggling them into locations without consultation with the host communities.
The Dublin government has condemned the increasingly violent protests but has refused to consider a change of strategy, fuelling suspicions that the conflict is being orchestrated to suit their right-wing agenda.
Dublin Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin described the vandalism at the Sandwith Street camp as an “outrage”.
“This is racism pure and simple,” he said.
“Burning the tents of homeless people who have come to Ireland seeking international protection. This is not who we are as a people. We are better than this.”
Around 480 asylum seekers are currently homeless in Ireland, while over 125 anti-immigration protests have been held in Dublin alone so far this year.
A new refugee accommodation centre in Inch, County Clare, has also faced strong local resistance. Locals in Clare are maintaining a blockade at the rural road leading to the Magowna House hotel, where refugees are due to be housed, and have demanded to carry out head counts of those travelling to and from the location by bus.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Monday he was “shocked and horrified” at the scenes in Sandwith Street. He blamed a shortage of Garda resources for the violence, a claim which has been denied by the Gardaí themselves.
He again refused to consider placing a cap on the number of refugees entering Ireland.
Describing the latest protest in County Clare as “not necessary”, he promised more engagement with local communities but claimed the 26 County State is facing an “unprecedented situation”.
He said that the government has a “responsibility to provide information and to communicate with local people about what’s happening in their area”.
Varadkar added that the government is “stepping up our efforts to do that all the time” and that it is working to “dispel a lot of the misinformation and false stories that are being put about”.