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Politicians Must Avoid Unfair Rhetoric on Refugee Crisis

Politicians Must Avoid Unfair Rhetoric on Refugee Crisis

Refugee and migrant rights organisation Doras is concerned over increasing levels of unhelpful and misleading rhetoric about refugees from public representatives. It calls on all party leaders to ensure their members avoid populist rhetoric that unfairly demonises and scapegoats refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

“Communities the length and breadth of Ireland have been extremely welcoming of people from Ukraine. As the war continues, we need to ensure that Ukrainians feel safe and welcome in the communities they are living in. The same goes for people from other parts of the world who seek asylum here” says Doras CEO John Lannon.

“Ireland has an obligation to consider and process all asylum applications, and to provide a basic standard of accommodation, food, clothing and healthcare. It is vital that the suffering of refugees and migrants isn’t added to by being victimised and wrongfully scapegoated for failures in the political system, both nationally and internationally”.

“Particular attention needs to be paid to vulnerable persons who arrive in Ireland seeking protection, especially unaccompanied minors and victims of torture. People who have been traumatised by their experiences of war and persecution should not be further traumatised by having to live in unsuitable or unsafe conditions such as tented accommodations and cramped and isolated Direct Provision centres.“

According to the UNHCR, over 100 million people have been forced to flee their homes globally. The causes include wars in Ukraine and elsewhere, humanitarian and human rights crises in places like Afghanistan, worldwide food insecurity, the climate crisis, and other emergencies.

“We must do what we can to help address the root causes of these displacements, but we also have a responsibility to provide protection for people who arrive here seeking it. Ireland has welcomed close to 60,000 people from Ukraine. While the State has struggled to find accommodation for them Doras welcomes the government’s stated intention on Friday to move from an emergency response to a more mainstreamed approach. We also welcome the programme of support for local communities that was announced. However political parties must play their part in ensuring this is not undermined by ill-advised statements from its members”.

“Equally the government must do more to provide sustainable longer-term accommodation, not just for Ukrainians and asylum seekers but for everyone in the country. And while we recognise the huge challenge faced when it comes to finding accommodation, it is vitally important that requests from beneficiaries of temporary protection and asylum seekers for alternative accommodation are considered and acted upon when there are compelling reasons to do so”. 

Migrant and refugee support organisation Doras is alarmed by evidence of rising rates of food poverty among people from migrant backgrounds. The organisation has been operating a food provision system this summer and say they are shocked by the levels of deprivation and the impact this is having on children in particular.

Doras CEO John Lannon believes an urgent cross-sectoral response is required to what he describes as “unacceptable levels of hunger and poverty being experienced in a country where food and finance are plentiful”.

“Having access to a decent supply of food for our families is something many of us take for granted these days. However, this is sadly not the reality for many living in towns and cities throughout Ireland today. We’re a country that has known great hunger and as a republic, we say we aspire to offer a basic standard of living to all, but what we’ve been witnessing lately holds a revealing and disturbing mirror up to the nation”.

“Migrants are often among the more vulnerable members of the population, especially refugees, and those living in direct provision. It’s clear the housing emergency is worsening and driving a new level of deprivation that is leading to not just homelessness, but also hunger. People simply can’t afford the exorbitant rents being asked by landlords and state supports are generally inadequate. Meanwhile, thousands of people who have their papers are trapped in cramped direct provision centres but have nowhere else to go. Many are ending up on the streets or in homeless hubs with no access to cooking facilities. This situation is more acute during the summer months when the school meal programme isn’t available to children. The situation is compounded by the fact migrant families often lack vital social supports due to the absence of grandparents, uncles, and aunts, which traditionally help out with childcare and other needs. While summer camps can play a role, many are prohibitive due to cost barriers”.

It is against this backdrop that Doras, with the support of the Children’s Rights Alliance and Enterprise Rent a Car, has been operating a summer scheme called ‘Food Provision Scheme for Children and Young to Tackle Holiday Hunger 2022’. This has been providing thousands of euros worth of food vouchers to people in need, as well as a direct supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“The consequences of ignoring the situation are too stark to ignore. We know from the Children’s Rights Alliance’s Child Poverty Monitor 2022 that poor nutrition in children is linked to reduced development and cognitive functioning, delayed school enrolment, impaired concentration, increased illness, absenteeism, and early school leaving. This report also notes that being able to buy nutritious food locally or having access to transport to a local supermarket helps to prevent food poverty. Many of the families we support cannot do that. Many migrants often don’t have access to a car or public transport to access decent shops”.

“Initiatives like our summer initiative can be very worthwhile but they are also short-term and prove to be a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed. We need to step back and ask what’s happening here – the fact that people are being allowed to fall through what is supposed to be a social safety net. How is this happening in a wealthy country? It’s the same phenomenon that is leading to the new wave of food banks all over Ireland and the UK. Meanwhile, we see almost full employment and record tax returns and corporate profits. Things are badly out of balance, and we shouldn’t just accept this as normal or acceptable”.