‘I feel scared every day’: Dublin’s food delivery riders navigate no-go areas, bike thieves and ‘xenophobia’

Riders use risk maps of the capital setting out the danger areas where they are more likely to be robbed or attacked while delivering meals from restaurants

One of the first things any new delivery rider gets from their colleagues when they start the job in Dublin is a list of areas to avoid.

This forewarning about unsafe delivery areas – or “no go” locations – goes hand in hand with knowing how the electric bike works, how the delivery app works and how to accept an order from a restaurant.

Alexandre Rissatto dos Santos (42), from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, arrived in Ireland six months ago and has become a “passionate delivery rider”, he says. However, the frequency of attacks on riders is causing him and his colleagues increasing alarm.

“We see everything at night, people selling or using drugs, people on the corner using heroin. It’s complicated, like people stealing, stealing bikes, stealing motorcycles,” he says.


“A lot of people are afraid to enter this life only by hearing about what is happening in Ireland,” says one of his colleagues, Jonathan Julio Correia Xavier (30), also from Rio de Janeiro.

Riders have numerous WhatsApp groups to share areas where potentially threatening groups congregate, and where assaults or thefts happen. The “Áreas de Risco” map, first created in 2021, shows 22 Dublin regions categorised as low, medium, and high danger areas.

This is the reality that many riders face when joining the gig economy, a labour market that relies on temporary and part-time positions filled by independent contractors rather than full-time, permanent employees.

Many of these workers are immigrants, who came to Ireland to learn English. There is a large Brazilian community among them.

Ireland was ranked the second safest country among the 27 EU member states by the 2022 Global Peace Index, but these food delivery riders feel otherwise.

Berg Santos (30), from the Brazilian city of Salvador, has worked for both Deliveroo and Just Eat. He says he knows many people who have left the job because of an increase in assaults and violence.

“People leave Brazil looking for health, education and security. When you get here, you don’t have it. If Ireland is one of the safest countries in Europe, I don’t want to imagine [the most dangerous],” he says.

Among riders, there is a lack of trust in the Garda. Felipe Garcia (28), who has worked for Deliveroo for six months, says that, coming from Brazil, he assumed Ireland would be safe.

“I never imagined that I would find risks to work, suffer aggression. I’ve already been hit in the head, shot by paintball. You can’t leave your bike free, they’ll steal it... If someone does this in Rio to a worker, the person will be f***ed,” he says, citing the likelihood of prosecution.

He says gardaí seem to be powerless to deal with troublemakers. “There are actions that they cannot go to because the law prevents it. You have to read that clause in the law that says how they have to act in this situation... There are situations that the police cannot do against minors,” he says.

A friend of his, another rider, who is listening to Garcia speak, butts in to say: “I don’t trust the Garda... The Garda here is worse than the municipal guard in Rio de Janeiro.”

Another colleague, who also wishes to remain anonymous, says he feels some gardaí treat riders differently because of their nationality.

“If you do something they consider suspicious, they will stop you and say: ‘This isn’t Brazil’. How do they know how Brazil is? So, this is how xenophobia is built in their society.”

Kewen (22), who has worked as a rider for various food delivery companies for two years, says Ireland has an “issue of xenophobia”. Delivery workers are seen as “not Europeans; we are immigrants, and there is this bias”.

Many riders cannot afford the outright cost of an electric bike, which can be upwards of €2,000, so they instead rent them from different companies and shops for a weekly fee. If their bikes get stolen, often they must repay the company their loss.

Kewen says his bike was stolen from his garage in Dublin 8. He later found it being sold on Facebook Marketplace. He and a group of other riders later recovered the bike themselves because “gardaí did nothing”.

Many riders have set up networks to search for and recover stolen bikes, organised through WhatsApp group chats. Riders have reported incidents of stolen bikes to the Garda, but they say the investigation and recovery processes are too slow, given that the bicycles are a key part of their employment.

“For my safety, and to get my vehicle back, really and unfortunately, I had to round up 30 people to go after my bike with me. Of course, we don’t want any confrontation, but our vehicles are expensive. So [it’s] like losing €2,000,” Kewen says.

“Usually to recover the bikes it is through fights, discussions.”

“I’m losing work hours and most of the bikes that are stolen are rented. So the damage is huge. In addition to getting the value of the bike that was stolen, [we] have to pay more for renting a new bike per week to work ... Now, you have to work twice as hard.”

In response to queries from The Irish Times, An Garda Síochána said the nationality or immigration status of the victim, or the person who reported the crime, or the person who is suspected of the crime, has no bearing on a criminal investigation. The Garda added that any investigation “will be carried out ethically and without discrimination”.

Garda management has promised to significantly increase visibility in Dublin city centre – including by deploying armed officers, riot police and dog units – in the wake of a series of high-profile attacks during the summer.

But riders see little change on the ground, with one saying “people get tired of being beaten. Soon people will start to do justice with their own hands.”

Déborah Santana, who has worked for Deliveroo for almost three years, says: “I feel scared every day before leaving home.” She has been assaulted at least three times while waiting for or delivering an order. In one incident, she was attacked in the Dublin 12 area by a group of youths.

“I got home shaking and scared to death,” she recalls.

In another incident, just last month, a sealed bottle filled with urine was thrown at her.

“People have stopped counting on the gardaí, because all the times you go to them, ask for help and support, they say they can’t do much. What is the point then?” she adds.

A Deliveroo spokesperson says the company strongly condemns violence against riders and that their security is a priority.

“Riders can contact Deliveroo’s dedicated rider engagement teams with any issues and we make the mobile security app Flare available to all riders for free,” they say.

“This protects riders when they are working, allowing them to flag for emergency support and report any other incidents.”

However, when The Irish Times mentions the Flare app to delivery riders who have been attacked, none of them say they have heard of it, adding they rarely receive a response when they contact Deliveroo support.

Deliveroo says there are about 2,000 self-employed riders in Ireland, although other estimates put the number at least 50 per cent higher.

Another anonymous rider said he had lived in Switzerland, Portugal and Brazil, and felt Ireland was more dangerous than any of them.

“I feel safer in São Paulo than here... In Brazil, it [the risk of attack] depends on which street you go to. Here you are being attacked everywhere. You notice racism, xenophobia on the part of people,” the rider says.

Describing a mismatch between the outside impression of Ireland and the reality, he says: “If you look at the videos, Ireland is the land of opportunity. But it’s different, very different. It’s very unsafe... it’s very dangerous. For me, it is the worst land in Europe that I have known.”