Saturday 23 February 2019

Editorial: 'Consultation key on asylum issues'

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan
Editorial

Editorial

The suspected arson attack on a former hotel on the Leitrim-Roscommon border that was to open as a centre for asylum seekers has been rightly and widely condemned.

The Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, has confirmed that the hotel had recently contracted with his department to provide accommodation for 80 asylum seekers who have come to our country to seek protection, many of whom have experienced conflict and trauma and are vulnerable. He has said that he is "deeply concerned" by the fire at the Shannon Key West hotel in Roosky. In Ethiopia last week, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, also stated that, "generally speaking", Irish people have been quite welcoming of refugees. Indeed, the evidence of that truth is to be seen in many towns and other locations around the country.

Below the surface, however, there has always existed a minority which is intent on traducing the notion of Ireland as a country of a hundred-thousand welcomes. The behaviour and attitude of such people reflects badly on the State.

However, Mr Varadkar, who has described his trip to Ethiopia as a "humbling experience", has also said there needs to be greater understanding of public concerns about migration issues in general.

The biggest political mistake some people have made across Europe is to be dismissive of people who have concerns about migration, he believes. "They have concerns about the increasing impact migration has on housing for example, the impact on the health and education systems, particularly when there are a lot of kids in school who do not have English as a first language. They will have concerns about security and crime."

Whatever the all-encompassing nature of such concerns, there are lessons to be learned from events at Roosky. For example, the head of the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, who has said the suspected arson attack should be "treated as a hate crime", also believes it was a sign that the methods used to set up new asylum centres in this country are not working.

She argues that communities do not feel they are being consulted, while there are concerns that some asylum centres are too big to be placed in small rural towns. She also says people feel their legitimate concerns are not being listened to and that illegitimate concerns are allowed to fester and intensify. Such views need to be heard and responded to.

From his comments in Ethiopia, it is apparent the Taoiseach shares common ground with such views. Migration, he has said, needs to be correctly managed, as a whole, and not just in terms if it being a crisis, as was evident throughout mostly southern and eastern Europe in recent years. However, as he has also said, migration is a good thing from which Ireland has benefited enormously. It would be a tragedy, indeed, were the suspected events in Roosky last week to become acceptable or in some fashion to be expected.

Manifestly, such events are never acceptable and must always be roundly rejected. Our principle concern remains with those asylum seekers around the country, not least the more than 6,000 in direct provision centres, who have been left feeling scared and isolated by the despicable events on the Leitrim-Roscommon border last week.

Sunday Independent

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