Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has warned that an anti-refugee "sentiment" has emerged in Ireland as the country tries to accommodate thousands of people fleeing conflict in Ukraine, in addition to international protection applicants from other countries, amid a housing crisis.
Ms McEntee said that despite apparent growing unrest over a surge in refugees coming to the State, the Government is not planning on closing the borders for those fleeing “war and persecution”.
“We made it clear from the outset that where people are fleeing war and persecution that we are here to help them and I don't think that policy should change,” Ms McEntee said
Last month, gardaí responded to violent incidents at a temporary emergency accommodation centre in Finglas, Dublin. The centre's residence had been brought there from Citywest, however officials decided to move them from the centre for safety reasons.
A group of people forced their way into the former furniture store and amusements centre, where 45 international projection applicants were being houses.
The incident was filmed by members of the groups, many of whom were expressing anger at the use of the premises.
Later, windows were smashed from outside by a person armed with an iron bar.
Several protests were also held outside the centre, following which the asylum seekers were returned to Citywest.
Speaking in Newcastle West, Co Limerick, Ms McEntee said “there is a sentiment there” towards international protection applicants coming to Ireland during a severe housing crisis, however she said it was not a sentiment she, nor the "vast majority" of Irish people, shared.
“We are dealing with a situation where we have welcomed over 50,000 people seeking accommodation this year so far. This time last year the figure was about 7,500, so you can imagine the pressure that that is putting on our system.”
The war in Ukraine could not be foreseen, she said, adding that the current situation in Ireland “is extremely challenging”.
“We are doing absolutely everything that we can to provide accommodation and support to people where they need it.
“We are a very welcoming nation, so I think that is probably not something that will change — but I think we need to make sure that we have the right resources and the supports in place to try to address any issues that might arise.”