DUBLIN — Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar expressed his “deep concern” on Sunday about reports of suspected criminal damage at properties earmarked for accommodating migrants, including a fire at a former hotel in the county of Galway overnight.
Police said on Sunday that they are investigating a “criminal damage incident by fire” which occurred at the former hotel in the small western village of Rosscahill shortly before midnight on Saturday.
A video broadcast by national broadcaster RTE and the Irish Times showed flames engulfing the premises, with parts of the building destroyed.
Nobody was inside the building at the time, police said.
Protesters had gathered earlier on Saturday to blockade the entrance of the hotel in opposition to government plans to house 70 asylum seekers there from next week, RTE reported.
“I am deeply concerned about recent reports of suspected criminal damage at a number of properties around the country which have been earmarked for accommodating those seeking international protection here, including in County Galway last night,” Varadkar said in a statement.
“There is no justification for violence, arson or vandalism in our Republic. Ever. Garda (police) investigations are underway.”
Similar, mostly peaceful campaigns have grown across the country in recent months as Ireland tries to accommodate record numbers of refugees in the middle of a housing crisis.
The government agency responsible for housing asylum seekers began handing out tents to some new arrivals last week after running out of accommodation.
Unprecedented riots also erupted in Dublin last month after a small group of far-right activists attacked police following the stabbing of three young children by a man Irish newspapers have identified as Algerian born.
Varadkar sought to assure people that all asylum-seekers are registered, fingerprinted, checked against watch lists, and the circumstances surrounding their requests are examined thoroughly.
“The response from many communities has been incredible. We’ve seen people open their homes, schools, clubs and communities to help those most in need. The people carrying out these crimes are a very small minority,” he said.
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