The Government must “avoid feeding anti-immigrant and far-right narratives” and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to “aggressive or misdirected protests near places where refugees are accommodated”.
That is according to a group of cross-party TDs and senators on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Integration which also says media rules and regulations should be strengthened to “counter disinformation and harmful clickbait content”.
The committee has published a report on refugees and integration in Ireland, making 96 recommendations on steps that should be taken by the Government to support those seeking international protection in Ireland.
“[We] acknowledge the concerns some people have about problems in the provision of housing, health, transport, and education services, but appeals to people not to take those grievances out on people coming here seeking protection or a better life,” committee chair and Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion said.
“They are not responsible for those problems. So much more can be achieved by coming together to make things better for everyone than by blaming minorities for the challenges we face.”
The report comes a week after riots in Dublin, instigated by far-right activists in the wake of the stabbing of three children and their teacher by a man in the city centre.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris pinned the blame on a “lunatic hooligan faction driven by far-right ideology”, while the Dáil heard this week that the streets of Dubin were “surrendered to a far-right and violent mob for hours” from Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns.
Over the last year, as the numbers of those seeking asylum in Ireland have risen alongside a large number of Ukrainians arriving into the country fleeing the Russian invasion, protests have taken place in multiple towns across the country at the accommodating of refugees in particular locations.
This has included protests in Fermoy and East Wall in Dublin.
The committee's report said that an important point raised during its meetings was the need to ensure that those with genuine concerns are not isolated.
“The far right is an extreme, its numbers are relatively small and the odds of bringing it onside are narrow,” it said.
“While racism is unacceptable, as are racist positions dressed up as ‘concerns’, there are people who are not necessarily part of the far right but are genuinely worried in relation to the recent changes and lack of services in their communities.
“A large part of reassuring such people, as detailed previously, needs to happen by making good on promises of better public services for everyone, enabling people to think critically about disinformation and highlighting the benefits and rights involved in immigration.”
Among its dozens of recommendations, the committee said that items that should be acted on immediately include the establishment of a national lead on immigration along with a strong oversight and complaints mechanism for all those seeking protection.
It also said that the regularisation scheme, which ran last year, where those living in Ireland with no immigration status could apply for legal residency, should be made permanent.
It added the use of tented accommodation must be avoided and people seeking protection should not be made to sleep on the streets, while the use of ships should be avoided.
“Social media companies should be made to abide by their agreed community standards and to change their algorithms and should be prevented from enabling and profiting from fake news and harmful content,” it added.