Tuesday, May 16, 2023

David Young, PA

The Government has left one department to shoulder the burden of finding accommodation for tens of thousands of migrants, the Labour leader has claimed.

Ivana Bacik accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of failing to show leadership on the issue as she told the Dáil the Department of Integration was doing almost all the work to find the necessary beds for asylum seekers.

During Leaders’ Questions on Tuesday, Ms Bacik also condemned events in Dublin over the weekend when anti-immigration protesters targeted makeshift camps for asylum seekers.

Tents and other furniture were burned at one of the camps in the Sandwith Street area.

“The attacks are a stain in our society, those responsible must be brought to justice,” she said.

Fine Gael Ard Fheis
Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys insisted the Government’s response involved multiple departments (Damien Storan/PA)

Ms Bacik added: “The circumstances in which people are forced to sleep on the streets while awaiting processing of applications is also shameful. The Government does need to do more on this.

“We need to see increased capacity, we need to see delivery at scale of accommodation for those who come here to seek refuge.”

She continued: “I’ve called on the Taoiseach to ensure greater co-ordination among government departments because there is still a sense that the department of integration is left to shoulder almost entirely the responsibility for housing those who come here to seek refuge, and that other departments have simply not been willing to assist and to support to provide the necessary accommodation that we have a duty to provide.”

As of last Friday, around 480 international protection applicants were without accommodation in the State due to an acute shortage of state-provided beds.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said the scenes in the Sandwith Street area were “horrific”.

She insisted there was a “cross-government” approach to the accommodation issue, with several departments involved.

She said announcements on extra bed provision would be made by the end of the week.

“The scenes we saw in Dublin at the weekend were horrific, burning people out of their tents. Those actions do not represent the vast majority of people in this country,” she said.

The Minister said the Government had faced an unprecedented situation of having to house about 100,000 migrants in the last year, including Ukrainians and other refugees – a number she said was the same as the population of Kilkenny.

“Have we largely managed to find accommodation? Yes, we have.

“Has it been perfect? No, it hasn’t.

“Have there been issues? Yes, of course, there have been issues and, like many other countries, we are doing the best that we can, under very, very difficult circumstances.”

No-fault terminations of tenancy
People Before Profit-Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett (Cillian Sherlock/PA)

She added: “Funding or political will is not the issue here. We’re pumping billions and billions into housing. We’re doing everything we can to try and alleviate the pressures that we’re currently facing.”

People Before Profit-Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett described the attack on the camp as “shocking and inexcusable”.

“It is absolutely clear that politically-motivated far-right activists were down in the area actively spreading false rumours, stirring up fears and ratcheting up the aggression and the threats against the asylum seekers in the encampment,” he said.

“We need to absolutely oppose that divisive, hate-filled racism. Of course, it is particularly tragic that it could happen when you consider the decades and decades of racist discrimination Irish people suffered, of the ‘no dogs, no blacks, no Irish’ kind that we suffered in the United States and Britain and elsewhere.”

However, Mr Boyd Barrett said the Government had a considerable amount of responsibility for creating the circumstances that, he said, far-right extremists were exploiting.

He said failures to tackle the housing crisis and address deprivation in inner city areas were factors.

Ms Humphreys warned against providing “credence” for those responsible for targeting the migrant camps.

“You shouldn’t be giving any excuses to the far right, because what they’re doing is wrong,” she said.

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