rising tensions | 

Plight of asylum-seekers threatened in Ireland highlighted by US news channel

CNN also details the arson attack on a camp in Sandwith Street, Dublin, following a protest there earlier this month

The arson attack on the camp at Sandwith Street

The CNN report highlights the tensions in the country

The aftermath of the arson attack on the Sandwith Street camp

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

The plight of asylum-seekers who fled violence and persecution only to find themselves threatened by far-right activists in Ireland has been highlighted by CNN in the US.

The major American 24-hour cable news channel has reported on how Ireland, “known as the ‘the land of a hundred thousand welcomes’, has seen tensions over the country’s growing number of asylum-seekers rising for some time”.

The news site also details the arson attack on a camp in Sandwith Street, Dublin, following a protest there earlier this month, where it was dismantled and later set alight.

CNN interviews a man by the name of Ahmed who told them that when he first arrived in Ireland after fleeing violence in his home country of Sudan, he was told by officials there was no place for him to stay.

The CNN report highlights the tensions in the country

“So, like many other refugees, he pitched a tent near Dublin’s International Protection Office,” the CNN report states. “He said he didn’t have many belongings, some books, a few personal items and photos of family members who were killed in the conflict just weeks before he fled.”

The channel reports that Ahmed, who asked them not to reveal his real name because of concerns over his safety, said all that was destroyed earlier this month after far-right anti-immigration activists organized a protest that led to the burning of the make-shift camp where he was staying.

The Sudanese man told CNN he came to Ireland to escape political persecution he is facing at home over his pro-democracy beliefs.

After escaping Khartoum, he flew to Dublin, where he asked the Irish government for asylum.

He said that he was relieved to have found refuge with such ‘great people’ but a month and a half after arriving in Ireland, “he is still waiting for more permanent accommodation as he camps on the streets of Ireland’s capital”.

“It is hard to be under a tent, there [is nowhere] to go to the bathroom and no cooking facilities. This is not a solution. We just want to be somewhere safe,” he told CNN.

CNN states that “Irish police did not provide details about its investigation into the incident and did not respond to questions about who it believed started the fire. The force told CNN they met with government representatives and provided a ‘proportionate response to incidents of public gatherings and protest’.”

“Struggling to cope with the high numbers of refugees arriving to its shores, Ireland has built up one of the longest backlogs of asylum claims in Europe,” the report adds.

It also refers to the Oxford Migration Observatory who say refugees afre waiting an average of 23 months to hear an initial decision on their application in 2021, the latest available data.

“Even if their case was prioritized, the wait remained long: 14 months on average, according to the observatory,” CNN adds.

According to CNN, Bulelani Mfaco, a former asylum-seeker and spokesperson for the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI), told them in an email that the backlog is because, unlike other EU countries, Ireland has no statutory time limits for issuing decisions on asylum claims.

“It’s far-right organizers spreading disinformation about asylum-seekers in a bid to pit asylum-seekers against other marginalized people in Ireland,” he is quoted as saying. “What we are seeing though is more ‘not in my backyard’ type of objections or ‘house our own first’ which we have seen from far-right organizers before.”

CNN says that questions have also been raised about the standards in one of “Ireland’s largest refugee accommodation centers, the Citywest Transit Hub in Dublin”.

Nick Henderson, the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, told CNN: “We would have concern for the safety of refugees regarding the continued overcrowding of the facility. We have recently worked with homeless people who have been brought into the Citywest Transit Hub and have not been provided with a bed, instead being left to sleep on chairs or on the ground.”

The aftermath of the arson attack on the Sandwith Street camp

One refugee who had previously stayed in the centre told CNN the accommodation was overcrowded, which has led to tensions between refugees.

“I’m terrified for my life,” the refugee told CNN. He said he left the emergency accommodation, describing it as “dangerous.” Having been homeless in Ireland for the past five months, he has moved his tent to the outskirts of Dublin because he was worried about another arson attack.

“Here life is not good. I have a heart problem, but I do not have access to healthcare because I do not have the document to show this. I want to work but I am not allowed. We have nowhere to wash. It is very hard. Where do I go from here?” he said.

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