Upstairs in a pub in central Dublin this week, a group of about 20 people sit around a table having an impassioned, but calm, discussion about a recent spate of abuse and attacks on city streets.
The meeting – attended mainly by young people from Brazil – has been called following a serious assault of a Deliveroo rider this month, news of which went viral. It is part of what the group see as an increase in verbal and physical abuse on the streets, by large groups of teenagers, in some city centre areas.
Deliveroo riders – delivering takeaway restaurant food locally – seem to be a particular target for such attacks: alone, on the streets, very visible, late at night, with cash. Hundreds of Brazilians work as Deliveroo riders.
A protest against street violence is planned for 2pm today in Dublin city – and it is not restricted to people from Brazil.
Supporting the Brazilian students at the meeting are a number of Irish people, including English-language teachers. Teacher Jamie Hermann recently posted a video of shouting, aggressive Irish teens abusing people on Westmoreland Street.
Herman’s students tell her about low-level incidents all the time, she says. “They work hard to pay exorbitant rents, doing jobs that nobody else wants to do. And on top of it all, they have to deal with scumbags throwing eggs, firecrackers and rocks at them while they’re on their bikes, stealing their bikes, mugging them, insulting them, beating them up in the park for no reason. All while the general public is looking away.
“... It’s an absolute disgrace ... The international English language market is worth an estimated €762 million to the Irish economy, according to a report by the Department of Education. And this is how we treat our students and customers.”
Other incidents are documented, with pictures and names changed, on the Facebook page SPC Ireland. In the past month, they include "Gabriela", who was punched and beaten by a large group of girls aged 13 to 16 in Dublin 1 as she and two friends went home from work at 7pm.
“Camila” and a friend were assaulted in the city centre by five girls, who hit her in the face with a boot. Two men came to their aid and they escaped.
It is unclear whether street violence against non-Irish people is rising. Nor is it clear whether such attacks might be the result of racism or general lawlessness. Despite these anecdotes and social media stories of such violence, the Garda says it’s not aware of an increase in attacks or verbal abuse.
An organiser of today's protest, Raphael Duarte, says there is a reluctance to report attacks because police in Brazil are not trusted. Also people are afraid of losing their jobs, or don't have good enough English to explain themselves. "It's a delicate situation. In many ways we don't know how to approach the system."
Duarte, a Deliveroo rider, reckons well over 300 Brazilians work for the company. His friends have been attacked by groups of teens, he says, in one case on Kevin Street, 500m from one of the city’s most prominent Garda stations.
Brazilians in Ireland
The 2016 census shows 15,796 Brazilians live in Ireland, the second fastest growing group in absolute terms (up 6,498), since 2011. Many Brazilian people here have dual nationality and may be registered as European.
A lot of younger Brazilians have moved here due to a concerted and successful Irish drive to attract English-language students to Ireland. The standard and value of language schools is seen as good, and registered students are allowed to work 20 hours a week.
It’s difficult to live in Ireland on wages from 20 hours of often low-paid work. Occasionally jeitinho (strokes) play a part: food delivery, where pay is based on the job, not the hours worked, can be a way of getting round the 20-hour rule.
Most Brazilians in Ireland are from São Paulo city and state, Irish Times contributor Tom Hennigan – who lives in São Paulo – observes. It is far the most populous and wealthiest in Brazil.
Most are urban from “the aspirational lower middle class – young people growing up in a connected world who want to see a bit of it”, he says.
“Because of Brazil’s conditions generally and the limited opportunities for their own social class, they seem to see better opportunities abroad. They have the resources poor Brazilians don’t have to get to Europe. A lot of people have degrees and have worked before coming to Ireland,” Hennigan says.
It would be wrong to paint a picture of misery and violence. Brazilians also talk about feeling much safer here than at home, and enjoying their life in Ireland. There is a warm community and much support and interaction; flats and jobs are generally found via friends or social media groups.
Brazilians, says Gislene Oliveira, another protest organiser, who has lived here for 10 years, are "touchy-feely. We're sometimes too much, too personal. Compared to Irish people, we're very open, whereas Irish people take a bit longer to establish trust."
Accommodation – finding it, affording it – is difficult, as it is for many Irish, and for many Irish emigrants, says Oliveira. Overpriced and overcrowded rentals abound.
Juliena Flores, who has lived here for 4½ years, now with a Polish husband and studying in Trinity College, describes an early flat, where part of the living room was curtained off by a sheet to create a sleeping area, for €250. She worked for a short time for an online cleaning agency, where householders could halve your pay at will if they didn’t like your work.
Andrea studies English in the morning, and works in a deli in the afternoon. The small two-bedroom apartment she used to live in in Arbour Hill with six people (she paid €350 a month to share a room with two others) was sold with just 10 days’ notice to find a new place.
She now rents a room in in Stillorgan – it’s more expensive but a better arrangement, she says. Andrea worked in marketing in Brazil and saved for two years before coming to Ireland.
The most difficult thing is “being alone”, she says, despite the big Brazilian community. “It’s hard to find a place and job. In the beginning we became crazy, and you have to manage time and money, because you don’t know what work you’ll have next week.” The weather is a problem too. In winter “we only have pubs to go to”.
Fell in love with Ireland
Gislene, from outside São Paulo, came to Ireland 10 years ago, with two children, because of her now ex-husband’s job. Their third child was born here, and Gislene now works in marketing.
She has had some bad experiences, “a break-in, my car was robbed, [and I was] scammed by rubbish collectors”. Her son was called a “Paki” by some other kids. Yet she enjoys the variety of experience in Ireland and people she meets. She says she is well integrated and her children are “basically Irish”. “At this stage, it’s home for me.”
Janaina Oliveira ( 34) formerly a nutritionist from Minas Gerais in the centre of Brazil, came to Ireland for six months three years ago, and has been here since. "I fell in love with Ireland since the first day."
Janaina is now doing a business degree, and working part-time in human resources at DCU, having initially worked as an au pair. She had her own room in a house share till a few months ago, when she moved in with her Italian boyfriend.
The best things about Ireland are “learning English and creating a new life and friends and a new profession. You can develop yourself and there are more opportunities. I feel safe, 100 per cent more safe than in Brazil.”
Francine, in her 20s, is from São Paulo and has been here nine months.
She finds it hard being here alone, learning how to trust people, especially in crowded accommodation. She has lived in places where people took or used her things, but now she is happy in a shared house in Drumcondra. A friend lived in a house with 22 people – “it was totally wrong”.
Despite a number of unpleasant incidents – people shouting “f**k tourists”, or throwing things, or telling her to go home – “In São Paulo I could never do things I can do here: meet friends, walk anywhere, hold my phone in my hand on the street.”
At the meeting there are various perspectives on how to handle violence. The Brazilians are clear they don’t want to target or blame deprived Irish communities. Many point out it’s not just Brazilians who have been abused, and indeed not just foreigners.
Others say it is important to report incidents to the Garda, and to involve the Immigrant Council. Irish teachers, solicitors and union organisers who have shown up offer suggestions for strategy.
Before the meeting gets going, one Irish man aggressively interrupts Raphael Duarte in conversation. Without introducing himself, he insists he talk with him. Saying he is a good friend of Brazilians, he wants to “stamp it out” and doesn’t want this to escalate. He suggests the perpetrators – “stupid idiots creating havoc, with no repercussions” – need to be taught a lesson and have “the fear of God” put in them, and suggests dealing with it with hurleys.
His vigilantism gains no support. The meeting seems instead to be the start of a movement, feeling its way, trying to be inclusive and finding its feet in one of Ireland’s newest communities.
By the end, many disparate opinions have been expressed, and Raphael Duarte seems uncertain about the best way to proceed. “All I want is peace, to be able to live my life.”