Some members of Dublin’s migrant community, all city centre workers, are feeling “stressed”, “afraid” and “traumatised” following last week’s riots, with some still afraid to leave their homes.
Rayan*, a Moroccan national who has Irish citizenship and works in the city centre, usually walks home via Parnell Square East, but changed his route last week following the stabbings.
“I could see people looking at me in a funny way, like I had done something wrong, and then I heard the suspect was an Algerian. I’m from Morocco, that’s close to Algeria, I became very scared,” he said.
Rayan, who prefers not to give his real name for fear of being identified, said he did not leave his home that night to buy food and only slept for three hours. He believes some of the rioters live in his building, which is a few streets from where the violence broke out.
“I live on my own and I could hear people fighting out on the streets, people screaming and swearing. Even now, I don’t feel secure. I won’t go out after dark and keep checking there’s no one walking behind me,” he said.
“I won’t go to the local shop, I’m shopping in the Docklands instead. I’m always panicking. I came to Ireland in 2015 and it’s the first time I have felt this way. I understand the anger of the people if a child is stabbed, but that doesn’t mean you should attack everybody. Not all immigrants are the same.”
Sharon Mpofu, who has lived here since 2019 and works on Abbey Street, said last week’s riots were “traumatic” and was afraid to leave her place of work at lunchtime the following day.
“That Friday was really uncomfortable, you could feel the tension, the stress, the trauma of not knowing what’s going to happen next. What I witnessed last Thursday is something I never thought would happen in Ireland,” she said.
Ms Mpofu was outside the GPO in Dublin last Thursday evening when she heard rioters making their way down O’Connell Street.
“I just made it to Tara Street station to get home to Wicklow, and whilst on the train I rang my colleague to find out if she’d managed to catch her bus,” she said.
Ms Mpofu’s friend, also a black African woman, got caught in the middle of the riots and had taken shelter in JD Sports when protesters starting looting the store.
“Luckily an Irish guy came to her rescue and helped her from Henry Street, across the bridge and into Temple Bar,” she said.
Ms Mpofu said her friend did not want to speak to the media because “she’s still traumatised, to the extent that when she hears a siren she panics”.
Rumours of further protests outside direct provision centres don’t help, she added. “She lives in Finglas in the Balseskin Reception Centre and people are now afraid to leave,” she said.
Mpho Mokotso, who is originally from Lesotho and also works in the city centre, said travelling into Dublin since the riots had left her in “a state of panic, scared and anxious”.
Her teenage daughter repeatedly texted her mother’s phone when she travelled into work this week.
“She kept saying: ‘Please be careful, please be safe.’ She is worried about my safety in the city centre, something a teen shouldn’t be thinking about,” she said.
Ms Mokotso has not been surprised by the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Ireland, as she and her daughter have been racially abused numerous times. In one incident, a young boy shouted racist remarks in her face while his mother sat silently nearby. In another, a group of boys threw stones at Ms Mokotso and her daughter on the Luas.
She readily agreed to be named in this article. “We can’t keep hiding as though we are perpetrators. I have done absolutely nothing wrong. I work hard, pay my taxes, and it’s sad that some people, when they see us, they hate us for no reason,” she said.
Maria*, who is from Argentina, also experienced racial abuse on public transport, and recently stopped using the Luas with her daughter because of the number of comments strangers made when they spoke Spanish. She was at home last week when a friend forwarded a voice message from a social media account called Kill All Immigrants, shared tens of thousands of times, calling on the public to “kill foreigners”.
“It was scary for everyone, and my daughter is still terrified. They were talking about it in school with friends and she can’t sleep or even go to the toilet alone,” she said.
Maria and her Argentinian friends have chosen not to socialise outside their homes since last week, while some parents did not send their children to school for fear of attacks on public transport.
“We’re not going out because we’re scared that people will notice we’re not Irish,” she said. “We’re meeting friends in our homes so our children can play without the risk of danger.”
* Pseudonyms have been used to protect the identities of some interviewees
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