Census shows huge increase in homeless figures

The Central Statistics Office has published its latest profile report of results from Census 2016 which focuses on homeless people in Ireland.

The report shows that, on Census night in April last year, just over 6,900 people were either sleeping rough or in accommodation designated for the homeless.

The CSO said that the homeless figures from last year’s Census are not directly comparable to the figures it collected in the previous Census five years earlier, because those in long-term homeless accommodation are excluded, while those living in private emergency accommodation such as commercial hotels and B&Bs are in for the first time.

However, the new Census numbers reflect a huge increase in homelessness in Ireland.

The figure is now 6,906 people. It was 3,744 five years ago including about 1,000 in long-term accommodation residents not now included.

72% of the homeless are in Dublin. 58% are male. The average age is 31, although 23% of the total is children under the age of 15.

The Head of Policy and Communications for the Simon Community has said the results should “frame the appropriate responses” for moving people back into their homes.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Niamh Randall said the figures show the impact of austerity, the absence of affordable housing and issues like zero hour contracts and poorly-paid jobs.

Ms Randall added that “one-size will not fit all,” saying that an “individualised, tailored response” is needed “to meet each individual’s housing need and then to provide the wraparound support they may need to live independently.”




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Ireland used for logistics by Islamic terrorists

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The raids by Garda anti-terrorist officers were part of an overseas investigation into support cells for jihadi activists. It underlines once again that while Ireland may be an extremely unlikely target for an attack by international terrorist groups, it can be used by sympathisers to provide logistical aid to potential killers elsewhere.

In the past, this country has been used by al-Qa’ida sympathisers, who provided logistical support for active cells overseas by assisting with fundraising and producing false identity documentation, including highly valuable Irish passports, that could be used in other countries to help prepare for an attack.

The man arrested yesterday is suspected of committing an offence under anti-terrorist legislation, which was introduced here in 2015. It created three new crimes of publicly provoking an act of terrorism, helping recruit terrorists and training them.

Police sought assistance of gardaí after inquiries in other European countries disclosed possible involvement of a Dublin link to support cells.

Raids were also carried out in Limerick and Wexford last June when officers seized social welfare documentation, which had previously been connected to Rachid Redouane, who was shot dead by police shortly after the terrorist attack on London Bridge.

The Government has to continue providing the resources to allow gardaí to develop the response to international terrorism.


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Ireland has no accommodation for incoming refugees

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It could be several more months before the Government secures extra accommodation to locate refugees and asylum seekers scheduled to come here from Greece, Italy and Lebanon.

Despite criticisms about accommodation shortages, plans are only now being drawn up to seek proposals from providers.

The Department of Justice has asked the Office of Government Procurement to notify prospective tenderers of its intention to seek offers of accommodation and services for around 600 people. However, a notice issued this week only says that tenders are expected to be sought “within the coming months”.

The accommodation problem was flagged by department officials to Charlie Flanagan when he became Justice Minister in June. They said securing suitable sites was slowing the rate of bringing asylum- seekers from Greece to Ireland.

So far, 459 of the 1,089 asylum-seekers which the country is committed to relocating from Greece have arrived. Another 440 just received clearance two days ago to travel here, following security checks in Greece by gardaí and representatives of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP).

It is unclear if they will be permitted to come here until further emergency reception and orientation centres have been established as initial locations for new arrivals. However, the Department of Justice said all those due from Greece are expected to arrive by year’s end.

Ireland made a commitment in 2015 to take in 3,800 refugees and asylum- seekers, over and above the normal rate of asylum applications, increasing to 4,000 last year when it was decided to accept 200 unaccompanied minors from Calais in France. The total includes a pledge to take 1,040 refugees by the end of 2017 from Lebanon and elsewhere, 785 of whom have already arrived.

As well as those due to be accepted from Greece, 623 are to be taken from Italy and 910 others from locations yet to be decided.

Around 500 of the 1,244 people already arrived here under the resettlement and relocation strands of the IRPP are being housed in emergency reception and orientation centres in counties Kildare, Roscommon and Waterford.


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Convicted Islamic terrorist cannot be deported from Ireland, Supreme Court rules

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A convicted Islamic terrorist cannot be deported from Ireland after the Supreme Court ruled the Justice Minister must re-examine his case.

Former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald ordered the deportation of the Algerian, who has been linked to al-Qa’ida.

But following a lengthy legal battle the Supreme Court today quashed a decision by the minister not to revoke the order.

It concluded the matter should be considered again by the new Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, taking into account “up-to-date information” on whether there was a threat the man would be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment if he was to be returned to Algeria.

His legal team maintains he is at risk of torture if he is sent home.

In a written judgment, Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell said that if the minister decided to go ahead with the deportation following a fresh appraisal of the man’s case, his legal team can again mount a challenge in the High Court.

Solicitor Gavin Booth of human rights law firm KRW Law, who represents the Algerian, said it had always been his client’s case that he could not be deported without his rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights being breached.

The 53-year-old man at the centre of the case is currently being held in Cloverhill Prison.

During the case it emerged he had used six different names since arriving here 20 years ago.

The man, linked by French authorities to al-Qa’ida, used his own name and five aliases at various points.

Department of Justice officials have alleged the man is involved in terrorism and his activities and associates are of serious concern and contrary to the State’s security.

The man was a supporter of the banned political movement Front Islamique du Salut, which sought to establish an Islamic state governed by sharia law.

He fled Algeria in or around 1994 and was convicted in his absence of murder and formation of a terrorist group.

The man ended up in Ireland in 1997 and gained refugee status in 2000.


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New legislation reduces number of marriages of convenience

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A sharp reduction in the number of marriages in Ireland last year between EU citizens from outside Ireland and a non-EU citizen is being attributed to the introduction of legislation designed to crack down on marriages of convenience.

Figures published by the General Register Office show 426 couples involving two foreigners with one partner from outside the EU were married in the Republic in 2016. It compares to 860 in 2015 and 1,163 in 2014.

The office figures reveal that 41% of such couples who notified the Irish authorities of their intention to marry last year did not proceed with their wedding.

Only about 20% of couples in that category failed to go ahead with a marriage ceremony between 2012 and 2014. There has been a significant reduction in the number of citizens from Pakistan involved in such marriages — down from around 400 in 2014 and 2015 to 58 last year.

The registrar general Kieran Feely said the problem of marriages of convenience, as a means of circumventing immigration controls, became more acute following a ruling by the European Court of Justice in the Matock case in 2008.

It allowed the non-EU spouse of an EU citizen to move and reside with their partner within the EU without having previously been lawfully resident in a member state.

The judgement did not apply to a non-EU spouse married to an Irish citizen.

Mr Feely said: “Non-EU nationals marrying Irish nationals are not entitled to EU Treaty rights in Ireland, so there is much less of an incentive to contract a marriage of convenience with an Irish citizen.”

The registrar general said the number of notices of intention to marry involving non-Irish EU and non-EU couples had grown “fairly dramatically” in recent years. They rose from 883 in 2012 to 1,584 in 2015 — an 80% increase.

In his annual report to the Department of Social Protection, Mr Keely said there had been an equally dramatic fall last year when the numbers fell by 56% to 702. “The introduction of the measures contained in section 18 of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 has obviously had a significant impact,” said Mr Keely.

The legislation which came into effect in January 2016 allows for a marriage that is determined to be a marriage of convenience to be declared invalid.



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Men “propositioning” children in direct provision centres

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The report found that children are “unhappy” about the length of their stays in the system with a number of children saying they have lived in the system since they were born.

Many also feel they are stigmatised because of where they live, in addition to suffering from racism.

Some of the complaints were about the standard of accommodation, food and the length of time they had to stay in the system.

Children also said they did not feel safe when sharing space with single men, and described their living conditions as “overcrowded” and “dirty”.

“There are loads of men bothering us,” said one child, while another commented: “There is so many men, and . . . they look creepy at you.”

These are among the findings of a Government consultation with 110 children, aged between eight and 17, living in 11 direct provision centres across the State.

Of the 4,786 residents of direct provision in May this year, some 1,230, or 25 per cent, were 17 years or younger. Of these, 1,042 were aged 12 or younger.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said she was “concerned” by the reports.

“The issue was them being accommodated with large groups of single men.

“Men looking at them in a creepy way, men propositioning them. It is not a good idea to put large groups of single men in with families.”

Ms Ward warned that having this could lead to “grooming type scenarios” and called on the Government to do more.

The report was welcomed by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan who said hearing the voices of children will help direct policy.


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EU faces unprecedented terror threat, says security commissioner

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The terrorist threat in Europe presents a “grim threat picture” with the battlefield broadened to include thousands of “amateur wannabe terrorists”, the MacGill Summer School heard from former British ambassador in Dublin, Sir Julian King.

He said that beating the terrorists would require more than tightening borders, but tackling the root causes of radicalisation through supporting civil society projects on the ground and working with grassroots organisations.

Sir Julian, who is the EU’s security commissioner, said this “generation of jihadi terrorists seeks to destroy our values and our way of life”.

He also referred to how Moroccan-born Rachid Redouane, one of the three London Bridge attackers who killed eight people last month, was carrying an Irish identity card and had lived in Dublin for a period of time.

“Given the indiscriminate and unpredictable pattern of attacks, the challenge for our open, liberal democracies is to successfully counter a threat of this order without jeopardising our own hard-won values and way of life – which is, after all, what we are defending,” he said.

“What makes the current terrorist threat we are facing different is that it is global, linked to a transnational religious movement which, over a number of evolutions – from the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan through al-Qaeda and to Daesh, the so-called Islamic State of today – has broadened the battlefield to the extent that it can rely on a brand, a franchise and thousands of amateur wannabe terrorists,” he said.

He added: “The puppet-masters upload instructions to the internet to pick up a kitchen knife and get into a vehicle and suddenly terrorism is within the reach of anybody with a grudge, a violent temperament or in search of a cause to fill the existential void.”

“Another five terrorist plots have been foiled since March and 18 thwarted since 2013. And with another, fortunately failed, attack in Brussels it’s clear that the tempo of the threat is unprecedented.”



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