As several protests against refugees and asylum seekers took place outside accommodation centres throughout last week in Ireland, the concern over racist and anti-migration sentiment in the country rises.
“We’ve talked to residents and they are worried,” says John Lannon, CEO of the Limerick-based organisation Doras. “In Ballymun, there were children watching from their windows and asking ‘why are they shouting at us’.”
Travelodge residents in Ballymun were targeted with threatening and racist chants from the demonstration attendees. Local councillors, businesses and organisations expressed their disapproval in a joint statement then published on Twitter under #BallymunForAll. “Men, women, and children, be they residents or newcomers, should not fear for their safety in their homes or on our streets. We know that only a small minority of people from the area are taking part,” it reads.
Mr Lannon explained how residents he talked to haven’t felt free to leave the accommodation centres when protests were on, and how even non-asylum seekers, if part of an ethnic minority, have feared being verbally or physically attacked if they happened to pass by at that time.
Garda investigations reveal it’s about small far-right groups gathering through social media and organising this kind of demonstrations.
“The far-right groups just see this as another opportunity,” says Mr Lannon. “Any claim that refugees and asylum seekers are taking something from others is untrue. We had a housing crisis in Ireland long before anyone arrived from anywhere,” he added.
Mr Lannon explained that within communities hosting refugees and asylum seekers, people are indeed concerned about the increasing lack of resources and capability, and this can make some of them supporters of the far-right narrative. “They should address their elected representatives instead,” he says, “The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has done a lot but need to find a strategic response for the long term.”