Justice Minister 'very concerned' by TDs' comments about asylum seekers

Justice Minister 'very concerned' by TDs' comments about asylum seekers

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said he is "very concerned" about remarks made by a number of TDs on asylum seekers in recent days.

Cork TD Michael Collins has suggested immigrants are now "flooding" rural villages, just days after Galway TD Noel Grealish accused African immigrants of "sponging off the system".

The comments come as controversy continues over proposals for a direct provision centre at a former hotel in Oughterard in Co Galway.

Responding, Mr Flanagan said: "I am very concerned about the type of language that I'm hearing, particularly from public representatives, I would ask people to exercise restraint.

There are serious issues here. We have obligations to asylum seekers, many of whom are fleeing the most challenging and difficult circumstances in the world. I think it's regrettable that there has been that type of language used by politicians.

"We need to work together in order to find solutions. And I'm quite satisfied that we will," Mr Flanagan said as he arrived at the National Ploughing Championships in Co Carlow.

Also attending the event, Labour Leader Brendan Howlin warned TDs not to "exploit" asylum seekers for their own political advantage.

Mr Howlin called on the TDs to withdraw remarks.

"I think we've been very fortunate in this country - almost uniquely across Europe - that we haven't had that sort of rhetoric loudly heard in our political discourse. We heard some it during the presidential election last year.

"But by and large, most politicians have understood that asylum seekers and migrants coming to this country are very welcome, and don't try to exploit newcomers to their own political advantage. I think there's a danger that we might fall into that trap now."

Mr Howlin added: "Characterising whole swathes of people in the way that was characterised in the last couple of days, I think, is not only unhelpful, but very unwelcome.

"I think the comments should be withdrawn. There's no doubt about it," he said.

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