Gardaí believe there are far more incidents of racial abuse occurring in Ireland than are being reported to them.
The project, which is the first of its type in the country, is being launched in Cork city and involves five centres where asylum seekers and immigrants can make reports about racially motivated verbal and physical attacks.
Gardaí in the city are investigating a racially motivated attack on a number of Muslim women who were on their way to work when they were stoned by a gang of youths. The youths also attempted to tear off their burkhas — the loose garments worn by Muslim women.
Nationally, between July and December 2007 there were 45 cases of racial abuse reported to gardaí, which they believe is a lot lower than the real figure. In the whole of 2007 there were 99 cases, compared with 65 the previous year.
Sergeant Trevor Laffin, sergeant-in-charge of community policing in Cork city, said he hoped the Reporting Racism Initiative will prove a success.
“We are conscious of the fact that there may be people who are reluctant to deal directly with gardaí, due to negative experiences they may have had in the past dealing with police in their country of origin,” he said.
“We are giving victims of racially motivated crime the opportunity to report an incident at a location and in an environment they are both familiar and comfortable with.”
Victims will be able to report racial abuse at the Welcome English language school on Proby’s Quay, the Cois Tine centre at Pope’s Quay, the Kinsale Road asylum-seeker accommodation centre, the Glenvera accommodation centre and at the NASC immigrant support centre on Mary Street.
Sgt Laffin said staff had been nominated at these centres to handle complaints and pass them on to the gardaí, if the victim agrees.
Gardaí have appointed a number of ethnic liaison officers in the city to follow up the complaints. Gardaí have already used initiatives to foster relations between new arrivals and themselves and also between the different ethnic groups.
These have included day trips in Garda buses, multi- ethnic soccer tournaments, bowling and pool tournaments and céili nights.
“We are committed to providing protection and redress against all incidents of racial abuse,” said Sgt Laffin.
An immigrants open day will be held at Anglesea Street Garda Station on Wednesday. On Thursday, from 7pm-9pm, a drop-in information evening will take place in City Hall.
Foreigners will have the opportunity to get information on a wide range of topics including tax, employment, health, education and training.