Send refugees to towns with supports, says Muslim cleric

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri says new arrivals should be able to integrate into society

Migrants near Miratovac, Serbia. Photograph: Marko Djurica/Reuters

Migrants near Miratovac, Serbia. Photograph: Marko Djurica/Reuters


Refugees from Syria and elsewhere who come to Ireland under a European Union refugee programme should be sent to towns and cities where they have the support of others from similar backgrounds rather than being sent to rural areas, a leading Muslim cleric has urged.

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri said it was important that those coming to Ireland from Syria and elsewhere would not end up isolated in rural areas but would be placed where they can interact with those from a similar background while also being able to integrate into Irish society.

“When you are talking about integration – it means the guest community not only gets an opportunity to interact with the host community but also that they get some interaction with those of the same background which is very important,” said Dr Al-Qadri.

“Therefore our recommendation to the Deptartment of Justice is not to send these people to rural areas but to towns and cities where you have both communities – where they can interact with people of their own background but at the same time integrate with the larger Irish community.”

The Government has given a commitment to receive 4,000 refugees from Syria and elsewhere but figures from the Department of Justice show that Ireland has to date been asked to take just 20 asylum seekers under a stuttering European Union scheme to relocate 160,000 refugees.

And Dr Al-Qadri said it was important to remember that all 4,000 would not be arriving in one group but rather were likely to come over the course of four to five years, by which time the housing crisis in Ireland would hopefully be resolved, making finding accommodation for them easier.

Dr Al-Qadri, who is Chair of The Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, said that while accommodation was important, he could not stress enough the importance of integrating the new arrivals if some of the mistakes of other European countries are to be avoided.

“Ireland has accepted 4,000 but for now, there have only been 10 or 15 people who have come – more are coming at the end of January and when they will come, they will go into reception centres and then they will be allocated accommodation where hopefully they will be able to integrate.

“We have to ensure that these people are accepted when they come because eventually we want them to play a good role in this society - we don’t want them to be just people who benefit from the society – they have to benefit but at the same time, they have to contribute.”

Dr Al-Qadri, who is the Imam of the Al-Mustafa Mosque in Blanchardstown in Dublin, visited a refugee camp in Calais last year and he said it was notable that every Syrian that he spoke to at the camp was anxious to one day return home to Syria.

“Every Syrian that I met in Calais said to me that if they had a chance to go back to their country and their country was safe, they want to go back to Syria, they don’t want to stay here in Europe – the Syrian people want to go back home,” he said

Dr Al-Qadri pointed out that, unlike others who come to Europe, most Syrians are political refugees fleeing the conflict rather than economic migrants and many are intellectuals and professionals who enjoyed a good standard of living in Syria but were forced to flee because of the Syrian civil war.