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Thursday 14 November 2019

Varadkar's remarks on asylum seekers branded 'gas-lighting and dangerous'

Taoiseach claims majority of applications from Georgia and Albania are 'groundless'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar''s highlighting of Georgia and Albania as the "big driver" behind the country's problems in housing asylum seekers has been described as "gas-lighting" and "dangerous".

Statistics show the two countries have overtaken Syria in terms of the number of people wanting to relocate to Ireland for protection.

Almost two in five asylum seekers to land here this year came from Georgia or Albania - but Mr Varadkar said that a significant number were travelling "with fake documents".

He said the Government was "stepping up controls at the airports to stop them coming in and we're making the airlines take them back".

The Irish Independent understands authorities here have flagged concerns that some people are boarding planes without being rigorously scrutinised.

"They get on with fake documents which are then disposed of after take-off so when they arrive here they have no papers at all," a source said.

Georgia's ambassador to Ireland George Zurabashvili told the Irish Independent there are "no political circumstances" for a Georgian person to seek asylum in any other country.

"To my knowledge the majority of asylum seekers are not granted asylum due the groundless basis of their application," he said.

However, the chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) Nick Henderson said it was "dangerous to be picking out nationalities and suggesting that a country is safe for all people".

He said the Taoiseach was "not actually saying they are economic migrants - but he's hinting at it".

"That's arguably gas-lighting. It's raising a balloon around something," he said.

The country's direct provision centres are now at capacity with the result that 1,800 asylum seekers are living in emergency accommodation.

This has led to protests in some communities.

Mr Varadkar told the 'Sunday Independent' that Ireland was not being "swamped or flooded" but neither could the Government "tolerate illegal entry".

He said direct provision was necessary while applications were being considered, and the Government was examining the possibility of constructing purpose-built accommodation centres.

Mr Henderson agreed with the Taoiseach that the numbers entering this country were relatively small.

Ireland received 3,655 asylum claims in 2018. It amounts to 756 people per million of the Irish population.

While Georgia and Albania are regarded by Ireland and many other EU states as safe countries, the IRC believes each case must be determined individually,

"Human rights organisations do report both countries as having ongoing issues, including issues for minorities and the LGBT community," Mr Henderson told the Irish Independent.

He added that the "vast majority" of people coming into a country to seek asylum have no choice but to arrive illegally.

"There is no visa to claim asylum. People shouldn't be subject to penalties for entering a country illegally.

"Claiming asylum is a fundamental human right," Mr Henderson said.

Irish Independent

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