herald

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Taoiseach's criticism of 'fake' asylum seekers is branded as 'dangerous'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's singling out of Georgia and Albania as the "big driver" behind the country's problem housing asylum seekers has been described as "gaslighting" and "dangerous".

The two countries have overtaken Syria in terms of the number of people wanting to relocate to Ireland for protection.

Almost two in five asylum seekers to land here this year came from Georgia or Albania - but Mr Varadkar claims a significant number were travelling "with fake documents".

He said the Government is "stepping up controls at airports to stop them coming in and we're making the airlines take them back".

The Herald understands authorities here have flagged concerns that some board planes without being rigorously scrutinised. "They get on with fake documents which are then disposed of after take-off so when they arrive here they have no papers at all," a source said.

Georgia's ambassador to Ireland, George Zurabashvili, told the Herald there are "no political circumstances" for a Georgian person to seek asylum in any other country.

"To my knowledge the majority of asylum seekers are not granted asylum due to the groundless basis of their application," he said.

Balloon

However, Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, said it is "dangerous to be picking out nationalities and suggesting that a country is safe for all people".

He said the Taoiseach is "not actually saying they are economic migrants - but he's hinting at it".

"That's arguably gaslighting. It's raising a balloon around something," he added.

Figures show that 3,762 applicants for asylum have been made in Ireland during the first nine months of this year.

This represents a 60pc increase on 2018. Direction provision centres are now at capacity with the result that 1,800 asylum seekers are living in emergency accommodation. This has led to protests in communities where some people have expressed concerns about new arrivals.

Mr Varadkar told yesterday's Sunday Independent that Ireland is not being "swamped or flooded" but neither can the Government "tolerate illegal entry".

Direct

He said direct provision is necessary while applications are being considered and the Government is considering building purpose-built accommodation centres.

Ireland received 3,655 asylum claims in 2018, representing 0.6pc of the total number of applications in the EU. It amounts to 756 people-per-million of the Irish population.

While Georgia and Albania are regarded by Ireland as "safe countries", the IRC believes each case must be determined individually.

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