Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that the government’s “engagement” with local communities on asylum centres is not about “seeking permission,” but instead about helping locals to “understand the current situation.”
Speaking to the Dáil during Leader’s Questions on Tuesday, he said that while some people have “reasonable concerns” about asylum centres in their area – such as “the impact on services like healthcare and education, issues around safety in some cases and the impact on the local economy” – the “whole role” of community engagement was simply to provide information and dispel “misinformation” for locals.
“The whole role of that community engagement team is to give people information, to dispel misinformation and to listen to genuine concerns that people have when a large number of people move into their town,” he said.
“That is the whole idea around engagement…nobody has a right of veto to say who lives near them, beside them, or in their town or village.”
He added that it was “not the case” that community engagement is about asking locals for permission to put an asylum centre in their area.
“It is not the case that community engagement is about seeking permission from communities as to whether people are going to move into the area,” he said.
“It is about information, dispelling misinformation and responding to genuine worries about services, safety and the local economy.”
The statement comes just days after a protest on Saturday at Rosslare Harbour in Wexford, where locals expressed frustration that 420 refugees were set to move into their area in addition to the 350 already living there.
“Enough is enough,” said Independent councillor and Wexford County Council vice-chairman Ger Carthy, as reported by the Irish Examiner.
“We have done a lot to help refugees for years, but to find that more are coming is just something we have to object to, because resources for the population that are here no longer exist. There is no primary care centre, there are no more school places, access to local GP services is already at breaking point, and people just can’t take it anymore.”