Editorial: We must house migrants as a matter of urgency
Migration should be seen as a process, not a problem. This is a sentiment we must all agree on. However, if you get that process wrong or fail to fully engage with its complexities, problems quickly follow. The Government is learning this the hard way.
The difficulty is not that we have people coming here for international protection or asylum, but that we have not been able to meet all our responsibilities to them.
To be fair, accommodating so many people was never going to be without challenges. Initially, responses were spontaneous and commendable, especially given the remarkable number of people involved.
As Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said, almost 100,000 sought international protection here in the past year. Most have been provided with food and accommodation. Some have received access to education and employment, he claimed.
It is clear that enormous efforts have been made, but if you are to accept credit where credit is due, you must also face down responsibility when things go wrong.
Capacity constraints should have been recognised and acted on long before now. Alternative arrangements that might not be ideal but that would at least be safe and secure in the short term should have been built into contingency plans.
Such failures mean there are about 600 people on our capital’s streets who have not been provided for. Only at this late stage are we looking at the repurposing of vacant office space to be used as temporary housing for people who have been displaced.
The possibility of using “floatels” is also on the agenda. These are far from optimal solutions. Similarly, it is unsatisfactory that some people must spend prolonged periods in direct provision.
If we commit to take people in, we are obliged to keep them.
Misinformation and disinformation surrounding the locating of applicants has also made it too easy for hostile elements to exploit situations.
Mr Varadkar has pledged to “beef up” government communication in relation to accommodating applicants. He said “information and communications are important”.
This is an understatement. We have long seen how quickly far-right groups fill information vacuums with poisonous propaganda and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Given the levels of international instability and global inequality, it is not a matter of if but when people will seek to come.
So we must be prepared. The challenge we face is two-pronged: how well we manage arrivals and how humanely.
Migration is part and parcel of globalisation. It should be a mutually beneficial exchange. Our own history shows this more clearly than most.
As John F Kennedy said: “Everywhere, immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.”
As long-time beneficiaries of inclusive policies, we have a particular duty to enforce them.