Support for project welcoming refugee family soars after anti-immigrant activists hijack Waterford meeting

Support for project welcoming refugee family soars after anti-immigrant activists hijack Waterford meeting
The public information meeting in Lismore. Picture: Catherine Rotte-Murray

The group leading a project to bring a refugee family to live in their community says there has been a groundswell of support from the locality despite the hijacking of their information meeting by anti-immigrant activists earlier this week.

Lismore Welcome Project is the second group to form under the new Community Sponsorship Ireland (CSI) initiative which aims to help refugee families avoid long spells in direct provision.

The initiative is based on a programme in Canada which has been helping to integrate refugees for 40 years, and is being developed here by the Department of Justice, the Irish Red Cross, Irish Refugee Council, Nasc - the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, and human rights organisations.

Dunshaughlin in Co Meath has already welcomed a Syrian family under the initiative and Lynne Glasscoe of the recently formed Lismore Welcome Project chaired a public meeting on Monday night to outline similar plans for the Co Waterford village, but the event was dominated by a small but vocal group of opponents from outside the area.

"We were targeted, I think that's quite clear. It was meant to be an information session but these people didn't come to find out anything - their intention was to disrupt," Ms Glasscoe said.

She said further information sessions would be arranged but on a much smaller scale in association with individual cultural, social and voluntary groups in the area.

"I think it's a lesson for other communities. If you hold a big public event, you're going to be targeted.

"Everyone in the locality will get their chance to ask questions but we'll do it in a small and private way."

Ms Glasscoe said the objections expressed were not representative of the local community.

"There has been a groundswell of support. The local quizmaster has offered to run a table quiz, we have local musicians who want to put on a concert and we have lots of offers of 'in kind' support.

We had 21 people sign up to do something on Monday night and 30-40 offers from the wider community so they've taken the idea to heart.

Under the CSI initiative, communities will be asked to form a group to devise a resettlement plan for a family currently stuck in a refugee camp.

Priority is currently being given to Syrian families in camps in Lebanon.

Each group will need to fundraise €10,000, of which €2,000 may be in kind; identify, secure and prepare accommodation for the family, and be their friend and guide by providing practical advice, information, orientation and introductions to the wider community for the first 18 months of their new life in Ireland.

Formally launching the initiative yesterday, Immigration Minister David Stanton called on communities across the country to extend the hand of friendship to a refugee family.

Ireland agreed in 2015 to accept 4,000 refugees to assist with the migration crisis but so far only half that number have been taken in.

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