Monday 20 November 2017

Massive response to Brazilian woman's story: 'We're supposed to be the island of a thousand welcomes... people should be safe on our streets

Sandra was slapped in attack
Sandra was slapped in attack
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Escalating rents and the high cost of living in Dublin city must fall if the city wants to attract – and keep - highly skilled workers from abroad, leading city figures have said.

Dublin politician Charlie O’Connor, and business leader David Brennan, have spoken in response to the story of Sandra Castrese, a skilled Brazilian worker who has decided to leave Ireland because of Dublin’s unaffordability and unsafe streets.

Ms Castrese (34) from Sao Paulo, Brazil is a digital media professional who was headhunted to come to Ireland to work here due to a skills shortage.

Over the past year, Ms Castrese was the victim of three separate and random attacks - on public transport and on O'Connell street. In one incident, she was slapped and verbally abused.

Fed up with this abuse and the high cost of living, she has decided to leave the country.

Cllr Charlie O’Connor described Ms Castrese’s experience, which flies in the face of Ireland's reputation as the land of a thousand welcomes, as regrettable.

Do you feel intimidated on Dublin's streets or public transport?

Sandra was slapped in attack

 “I don’t like to hear that anyone who would come here to work, that they’d have to leave. We are supposed to be the island of a thousand welcomes.”

“People should be safe on our streets, whether they be natives, or visitors, or they are coming here to work. People certainly should not be intimidated, especially because of how they look.”

Meanwhile, David Brennan, chief executive of the Dublin City Business Association said while he does not believe Dublin to be a dangerous city, antisocial behaviour causes unpleasantness in the city.

“My heart genuinely goes out to her. I just think it’s awful.  Dublin is a wonderful city to be in, it’s vibrant, there are lots of people on the move, lots going around me.”

“We do have a hell of a lot of antisocial behaviour that’s been brought about by people who have a chaotic lifestyle, but we are unfortunate in Dublin in that the authorities decided to bring a number of drug treatment centres into the city. That’s not going to change.”

He added: “The city is a very safe city. There is not a huge amount of assaults. We don’t have huge elements of violence in the city. You have antisocial behaviour and people who have chaotic lifestyles who cause unpleasantness.”

“It’s awful that this happened and I feel angry and I’m disappointed about it. But you will get this wherever you go in the world. It doesn’t make it fair, but it happens all over the world.”

Ms Castrese has received an overwhelming response to her story, and today she also featured on national airwaves.

Yesterday, Ms Castrese told that her high rent has also made living in Ireland untenable for her.

After a month in unsuitable, temporary accommodation, Sandra found a tiny studio apartment in Drumcondra for €680 per month. It was so tiny that there was no room for a washing machine.

For now, Ms Castrese will move home to spend time with her family before she can reevaluate her career plans. She hasn't ruled out a move back to Europe. In Berlin, rents can be up to 46pc lower than in Ireland, for example, Ms Castrese said.

Do you consider Dublin city to be unaffordable?

Sandra was slapped in attack

Cllr O'Connor agreed: “Rent is a whole big issue. There are people in low paid jobs, students, all making the point to me that it’s expensive so that is an issue for everyone, let alone for people coming here.”

“Obviously there are challenges, and if people are not getting a huge amount in terms of salary, some parts of the city are more expensive than others.”

“I’m disappointed that that impression has been created. I often make the point that many of us went abroad, I went to England to work. We are an open economy, an island economy, and it’s great that people come here to work, and if they go away with a bad impression then that’s something I’d be concerned about as a Dublin representative.”

Mr Brennan added that high rents for businesses in the city centre push up prices for customers, and rents hopefully will be reduced. 

“It’s a city that has a definite price tag to it, and I would like to see it reduced. How do you do that? I don’t know.”

“That is the system we have. Rent has been a thing that has been a great expense for the city. If your rent is high, prices are going to have to be a way that you can pay your rent, your rates etc.”

“It is difficult to come to the country and pay all the bills you have to and make a living as well. I would like to think that prices will fall. I would like it to be more attainable.”

He added: “I love my city, I really do adore it. I’ve always been extremely passionate about it, and I feel badly that anyone would be intimidated in our city, and especially when it’s a visitor to our city.”

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