Sir, – Your report on the crisis in asylum seeker accommodation raises a number of important issues that require urgent public debate if we are to avoid the far right taking over the agenda (“Places for asylum seekers could run out”, News, November 29th).
A good starting point for that debate is the 2022 statistical report from Eurostat.
In 2022, applications for international protection in EU member states increased by an average of 64 per cent but in Ireland that increase was over 400 per cent. In Ireland, the top two countries of origin were Georgia and Algeria while in the EU, as a whole, over 30 per cent of asylum applications were lodged by nationals from Syria and Afghanistan. The Irish authorities granted some form of international protection to 80 per cent of applicants whereas the average grant rate in the EU was 49 per cent. Countries such as Cyprus and Croatia approved only 20 per cent of applications. The reason for these disparities cannot be easily explained.
Nevertheless, it would appear that the “pull factor” has attached itself to Ireland, not least because of the statistics, but also in the context of the amnesty given to undocumented, long-term migrants in 2022 and a number of well-intentioned reports, intended to improve the supports available to asylum seekers. Unfortunately, it is almost certainly the case that these initiatives have been exploited by people traffickers with the result that potential migrants from countries which are not experiencing civil unrest or war are enticed to come to Ireland.
Ireland is facing a homelessness crisis and there is enormous pressure on our healthcare and education systems because of the rise in population. Surely it is time for a grown-up and honest discussion of our asylum system involving all of Government and including, in particular, the NGOs. That full and frank debate should be a positive exercise geared to ensure that Ireland is not overwhelmed but is a country that can fulfil all of its international obligations. Not to do so will leave the field open to malign forces whose intention is to sow discord in our society. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Ireland has come a long way since I came of age in the late 1990s. We are a more inclusive, diverse, tolerant, cosmopolitan and, arguably, more grown-up society than we were back then.
Among our western European counterparts, we had the lowest number of foreign-born people living here in 1998. Today we are on a par with Sweden, with around 20 per cent of our population now having been born abroad. This is ahead of the UK, France and Germany, all hovering around the 14 per cent mark.
As a small, open economy this has brought us many benefits. The vast majority of new arrivals have come here to work and start new lives. They bring new perspectives and inject vibrancy and vitality into our cultural landscape and for that we should be thankful. But there are many challenges too. Particularly in the years since the financial crash.
A combination of budget cuts, austerity, inflation, mismanagement of our health and housing sectors, together with increased numbers of asylum seekers and refugees, have created a sort of perfect storm of disaffection and malcontent among certain elements within Irish society.
Many communities feel put upon by the numbers of people seeking international protection who are shoe-horned into their towns, villages and neighbourhoods, often in already disadvantaged areas with scant public services and amenities for existing inhabitants.
For many in the squeezed middle, and marginalised, lower-income communities, the social contract seems to have broken down.
Our Government no longer seems to listen to or care about us. They are more concerned with bowing to Brussels or their corporate masters in the big-tech, financial and industrial sectors.
Not to mention their continued enabling of our previously bankrupt developer class.
The horrific attack on innocent children and their teacher outside a primary school in the centre of Dublin could prove to be a turning point.
Notwithstanding the hijacking of the resulting public outrage by a small minority of mindless thugs, the vast majority of Irish people have taken note of the Government’s ham-fisted and shambolic response.
Our only hope now is that we, who did not take to the streets, make sure our voices are heard at the ballot box! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I live in a small town of 11,000 people. We have had two direct provision centres for more than 10 years. Plus we have two hotels hosting Ukrainian refugees exclusively.
As far as I can tell, there are no issues, despite the number of refugees housed in the town. Local people drop off used clothing to the centres for the children, who attend the local schools.
However, I can’t imagine that there is much scope to increase the proportion of refugees here without some issues arising.
Would it be too much to ask for the Government, and media, to discuss the reasons behind concerns about immigration, rather than simply labelling it “far-right trouble” and moving on? – Yours, etc,