Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty has rejected the Irish Refugee Council’s call on politicians to watch their language when discussing asylum seekers and immigration.
Over the weekend, the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) CEO Nick Henderson criticised the use of terms such as ‘false story’ and ‘illegally coming into our country’ when discussing asylum seekers.
He noted that people are often forced to travel in illegal or irregular ways when escaping persecution – including using people smugglers who may take a passport back after someone arrives in Ireland.
He was speaking after the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the EU needed to secure its borders to prevent human trafficking and called for rejected asylum seekers to be deported.
He said refugees are welcome in Ireland but we “need to be firm with people who come to Ireland with a false story or false pretences”.
Over the weekend, he acknowledged the need to be careful when discussing migration – and said his remarks were aimed at human traffickers rather than migrants.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Senator Doherty said Ireland needs to be clear that it will not accept people who arrive here without a legal basis for doing so.
“I think what is very much valued is the Taoiseach’s language that we will treat those people firmly,” she said.
“That we will treat traffickers firmly and we will not allow people use the frailties in our system.”
She said the Irish people need to know that people will not be allowed to take advantage of the system.
“I think the Irish people need to know that if we are the land of a thousand welcomes, we also need to make sure that people who are taking advantage of some of the frailties in our system won’t be left to remain,” she said.
“They will be subject to deportation orders. Definitely, with regard to traffickers who we know are making vast amounts of money off people’s despair and disadvantaged situations, they need to absolutely be dealt with.”
There are a range of reasons asylum seekers could find themselves without travel documents – with figures showing that 41% of the world’s refugees have no access to passports.
Anyone in Ireland or at Ireland’s borders is entitled to apply for asylum – and they immediately become legal when they do so.
They have the right to remain in Ireland until their application for asylum is either accepted or rejected.
Last week, Newstalk revealed
Senator Doherty said the Government’s failure to bring forward an effective public information campaign on asylum seekers is feeding into the far-right narrative.
“In the absence of any public information campaign, all that reasonable, normal people who have normal concerns are listening to are TikTok videos being sent around on WhatsApp groups,” she said.
“There are a lot of outrageous claims being made on them and I think it is causing heightened fears and maybe a spike in anti-refugee sentiment.
“[We need] somebody saying, ‘no, this is what the reality is, this is what our immigration system looks like, it is certainly not perfect but this is how we manage. This is why our accommodation and refugee accommodation crisis is spiking at the moment.’
“If we don’t talk to people and tell people in the middle what we’re trying to do, well then all we’re left with is the disinformation and perfectly normal, reasonable people are believing this disinformation.”
She said Government needs to make someone responsible for communicating with the public on the issue.
“It doesn’t appear that anybody is responsible for talking to the general public,” she said.
“That is a real concern I have. Somebody needs to be responsible for it or they all do because if they don’t and they don’t do it soon, the people we are representing are going to be led by the people who have a hidden agenda of hatred.
“I think that is a really dangerous place to be.”
She said we have already seen what happens when officials fail to communicate with local communities.
“If we haven’t learned from any of those things, we are going to be entering a spring and summer and autumn and winter of discontent because ignoring the Irish people’s concerns is going to be a foolish thing to do,” she said.
Earlier this month, Newstalk revealed that almost 40% of the people applying for asylum in Ireland last year had no valid travel documents.
Gardaí have since stepped up passport checks at plane steps in Dublin Airport
Officials are also aiming to speed up the asylum process for people who arrive from so-called ‘safe’ countries.
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