Migrants’ confidence in An Garda Síochána to keep them safe is ‘low’, report says

Policing Authority also finds worsening relations between gardaí and some students

Migrants’  confidence that An Garda Síochána will keep them safe has been described as ‘low’, a report from the Policing Authority says. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Migrants’ confidence that An Garda Síochána will keep them safe has been described as ‘low’, a report from the Policing Authority says. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

Migrants’ confidence to report crime or confidence that An Garda Síochána will keep them safe has been described as “low”, a report from the Policing Authority says.

In its latest report, the authority said the use of a threat of deportation by gardaí in interactions with migrants “both as a serious threat but also in terms of ‘joking’” had been referenced by organisations working with migrants.

The Policing Authority was established as an independent statutory body in 2016 to oversee the performance of An Garda Síochána in relation to policing services in the State.

In its report, the authority said those working with migrants – both documented and undocumented – made reference to both positive and negative experiences of migrants of policing performance, including “a perceived lack of empathy and understanding” experienced by some migrants in their interactions with gardaí in stations.

“The impact of the threat of deportation was raised. The use of a threat of deportation by gardaí in interactions with migrants both as a serious threat but also in terms of ‘joking’ about deportation in interactions around documentation renewal, was cited as unhelpful, disrespectful and in some cases was experienced as humiliating,” the report said.

“It was described as showing a lack of appreciation of the fears around a loss of status and the employment and financial entitlements that flow from that status.

“The view was expressed that it is indicative of a lack of understanding as to what is at stake for a migrant in each of these interactions and the enormity of the impact of any decisions taken.”

Student organisations

The Policing Authority also said recent engagement with student organisations has found that the relationship between gardaí and some students “has significantly deteriorated”.

“While pre-Covid relations were described as positive, the events of the past number of months have seen a change to one which was characterised negatively in terms of feelings of distrust, harassment and fear,” it said.

Students were described as being on edge and seeking to avoid contact with gardaí. It was remarked that this was the case for students who are fully complying with the pandemic restrictions but who now lacked confidence to engage with gardaí.

This lack of confidence was described as being based on their own experiences, experiences of friends or those documented on social media.

The authority said students were increasingly unlikely to contest fines with gardaí as it was “easier to just take the fine”.

The authority noted reports of students “being fined for being on a walk within a 5km radius of home, being told that a walk was not a necessary journey, being turned back from going to a nearby shop for food and negative interactions at checkpoints”.

‘Do better’

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that as well as highlighting the good work of An Garda Síochána, the Policing Authority plays a “vital role” in where it can “do better”.

“In particular, the latest report cites the experiences of some in our migrant and student communities,” she said.

“However, I have seen how gardaí have constantly addressed the challenges, how they have adapted and how they have been resilient in delivering for the public in the face of risk and uncertainty.”

Some 20,242 fixed charge notices have been issued by gardaí for breaches of Covid-19 regulations as of last Thursday.

The Garda region with the highest number of fixed charge notices issued remains the Southern Region, accounting for 29 per cent of the national total.