The Direct Provision system for asylum seekers is an imperfect system – but not inhumane, Leo Varadkar has said.
The Taoiseach said more consultation needs to be carried out with communities following protests in Ballinamore in Co Leitrim and Achill Island – where two accommodation centres for asylum seekers were set to open.
Speaking at an Immigrant Council of Ireland conference in Dublin on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said immigration brings challenges, but the benefits outweigh them many times over.
“Direct Provision is an imperfect system but I do not believe it is an inhumane one. We have yet to come up with a better system but we are open to finding alternatives that are viable and affordable,” he said.
“In recent weeks, we have seen some of those challenges in communities across the country. If people fear that their community, their identity is under attack, they will respond in ways that we can understand.
He said the Government is seeking input from Ireland’s migrant community on improving standards in Direct Provision and that newer centres have higher standards.
“Newer accommodation offers own door, self catering accommodation and that is exactly what we want to have for everyone as everyone should have their own door and be able to cook and prepare their own food,” he said.
Mr Varakdar criticised the recent protests being held against direct provision centres.
“Too often, and I have to say it does concern me – is that we see people opposing accommodation centres in their neighbourhood or blocking migrants from moving into the local hotel under the guise of humanitarianism and opposition to Direct Provision,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said the government is working to engage with communities where direct provision centres will be placed “to show how their town or village or parish will be enhanced enough diminished by the arrival of newcomers”.
He said: “It’s never said, but I think it is worth saying. There are no protests at communities that already have accommodation centres. The fear evaporates, when people meet the reality, and particularly when they meet people who are that reality.
“I think we need to engage better with communities and listen to respond to their concerns. That has to be done by government. That’s our responsibility.”
Mr Varadkar also warned against those from the far-right who are coming to communities where direct provision centres will be placed to stoke up dissent.
“Scaremongering needs to be called out by those who seek to exploit local concerns for their own political, personal, or in some cases, racist reasons,” he said.
He also said the government “stands firmly against illegal immigration” into Ireland.
He added: “It should not be a controversial thing to say but apparently it is sometimes – that you support legal migration and you don’t support illegal immigration.
“We will step up our efforts to stop people being trafficked illegally into Ireland by gangs and also those who seek to enter Ireland unlawfully no matter how small that number might be.”