Editorial: Homeless refugees have been failed by Government

Gardaí come between anti- and pro-migrant groups in Dublin. Photo: Padraig O'Reilly


It is a dark day when people arriving here for shelter and protection find neither. The outlook deteriorates further when they are forced to band together for safety, only to be attacked.

Having been failed in their quest for some sort of roof over their heads, they possibly hoped they could at least be kept safe


Recent days brought the destruction of a camp in Dublin city centre where people seeking international protection had grouped together for shelter. This was a disgraceful act that should be called out by all decent people

It is noted, though not excused, that accommodation is a huge challenge for the Government. Significant insult has been added to injury by our failure to meet international obligations. We arrived at this failure by exposing vulnerable people to attack.

The harsh reality is that close to 500 people seeking asylum here have, so far, been made no offer of accommodation. Minister for Equality and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman, now promises to make “hundreds of beds available” this week.

The flashpoint referred to above took place between anti-immigration protesters and gardaí after a group marched to the International Protection Office on Mount Street. This is the place where a group of people had banded together in their tents, hoping for the safety of numbers.

Gardaí did all they could under extremely difficult circumstances. But people should not be reduced to sleeping in the street.

Protesters can oppose government policy and express their views. However, nobody has the right to intimidate or bully a defenceless group that is already distressed.

It is easy to manipulate social tensions and simmering resentment, and to weaponise them for malign political purposes. Racism relies on promoting prejudice and stoking fears.

When we admit vulnerable people to our shores, they must be shielded from bad people.

The Government says all options are now being considered in terms of offering accommodation. But “all options” should have been on the table from the beginning.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government is “at a point where we are finding it difficult to provide accommodation to everyone”.

But neither the Taoiseach nor any other member of Government is a bystander in this. They have an obligation to meet their responsibilities by keeping people safe.

We ought to remember that many of those coming here have been separated from family and friends. This separation has not been their choice; it has been inflicted upon them.

They have fled their home as a last resort and must not be used as scapegoats. No one willingly lies down on a bench or pavement in a foreign land, among strangers, unless truly desperate.

Control of their lives has been temporarily taken away. Anything we can do to aid them in their ­survival journey should be seen as humane duty.

To meet them with judgment, suspicion or blame is to demean us all.