Dublin, in theory, is considered one of the safest cities to live in but how much of that is actually true? For many years, hundreds of immigrants and international students, which forms a considerable part of Dublin’s population, have been victims of hate crimes and violent bullying. Most of these perpetrators have turned out to be minors, which means they get away with them due to a lack of laws against them. These attacks cause a lot of emotional or physical damage to the victims and the most shocking part of it all? It is severely underreported.
What’s the big deal? Victims narrate their tales
Aditya Mohtra, who has been a citizen of this country for more than five years now, was attacked so many times that he has become an activist for the same cause. What upsets him the most is that nobody made a move to help him during any of these attacks.
“We are talking about 12 to 18 year-olds, that’s the worst case. They roam around in groups, they will throw eggs, and do all sorts of things. They will throw stones, they even carry knives”, Aditya said.
Dublin has been at the centre of these crimes and the victims are usually people of colour or people from the LGBTQIA+ communities. Aditya even threw some light on how the busiest areas of Dublin fall in the ‘not safe’ category.
“Parnell street is one of the worst, then comes Jervis, Talbot Street specifically. And then if you go up North towards the Dublin 7 area, that is kind of a little bit scary as well. And yeah, Frederick street and that area…I would say towards the North of Dublin, mostly.”
Explaining how traumatising his experiences have been, he said, “First I remember, it was on the Luas, I was coming from work and it was around half ten, in the night and there was this young fella, he was just like, ‘go back to your country’, he was being quite racist. There were other people around me, they just kept quiet, they got scared as well, as anyone would, and he was quite aggressive and he spit on my face. When I was about to react, the next stop came, the doors opened and he just ran.”
However, that was not the only incident which left Aditya scarred. It happened yet again in 2017 and this time, it was him against a group of teenagers. “There was a group of four teens, who just came and they attacked me. They snatched my wallet and phone and they were running away. So I ran after them, I got hold of them. I got my phone back from them. We engaged in a fight but in that process I was hurt, I was so hurt, no one could recognize me, my left eye was just bulging out and they just ran away after that.”
The Garda did arrive in the next few minutes but since Aditya was so injured, they had a protocol to follow. “They were like no you are our priority at the moment so they took me to hospital. I had to wait for 3 hours, that too in the emergency ward.”
The issue only became relevant on social media after a disturbing picture of Aditya went viral across the internet, this was followed by a protest and a Change.org petition. Even after a few discussions and some media traction, Aditya’s sufferings were far from over. In fact, he was learning more and more about how tied his hands are.
“And then there was another case where they were trying to snatch my bag and it was just one guy. Again, it was late night, 24th of December, I was coming back from work, I used to work in a restaurant back then, I got my bag back and I fought actually, I actually hit him. He was there lying on the ground. The Garda came, they took me in instead of him and I was in prison for the whole night. I asked them why are you taking me and they said you engaged in a fight, you should not have done it and that’s not right… we wanted to protect you and that is why we took you to a safe place. And I was like..ha…okay.”
The tedious process of filing a case against these teenagers in question, does not make it any easier for the survivor either. One is lucky if the Garda even takes an FIR. “When I was reached out by the Indian Embassy, I was guided to go to the station and lodge an FIR. Get the Pulse number as well. So me and my wife, we both went to the Garda station, there was a long queue so we waited, they took all the information about it and I was asked to come back a week later for the Pulse number. I was like okay, maybe that is how things work so it is fine.”
But when he went back a week later, he was told no such complaint exists. Aditya decided to ask what the process is usually like. He was told, “If they are teenagers, even if we get hold of them, they will be given a mere warning not to do it again.”
is Dublin safe for students?
In the last two years, these cases have only risen in number and worsened in nature. Manasa Rayaji, who was a student at DBS, believes she was simply fortunate that she was attacked by one teenager and not a group.
“When I decided to come to Dublin, the first thing I heard from my friends was that there is a lot of teenage drama that happens here like mugging and beating people up, and a lot of my friends have been through something like that. So there was a teenager sitting outside the Spar (at O’Connell street), one morning when I was going to work. He saw me walking with a phone in my hand. So he came from behind, out of nowhere. He came and punched me. I think he thought that by his punching impact, my phone would slip out of my hand but that did not happen. I held on to it very strongly and he tried to pull it out of my hands. When that didn’t happen, he ran out of there.”
Karan (name changed on request), a security guard, encounters violent teens almost every day of his life. “It is very difficult dealing with them because we are strangled in laws, even the security guys”, he says.
The laws in such cases are the tricky part. According to the Children Act of 2001, children in conflict with the law should only be detained as the last resort. Apart from this, if the nature of the crime is not too intense, these kids are let off with it as long as certain conditions are met. This includes a clean record for a period of three years since the initial incident. Apart from the vague wordings, implementation of the laws have also become a topic of concern.
For Karan, however, every day is a new challenge. “There was this bunch of kids, we can say about thirty. And they came in different groups and they were there (Karan’s workplace) for about five to six hours. They used to smoke weed, they used to do vapes…they used to even supply weed. It used to happen in front of the shop. So I used to stand at the door, people used to come in cars, they used to supply it, take money, even kids have come…they have come and asked me if I need something.”
Kids become an easy target for drug dealers which is another major loophole in the law system. “The suppliers? 15-16, sometimes even 12–13-year-olds”, Karan confirmed.
Calling the cops after spotting the teenagers stealing is an everyday event for most security personnel according to him.
“They at least have to show up but, to be honest, a lot of times they don’t. Because they have a lot of other jobs to do where they can act upon.”
With all said and done, retaliating even if they touch you, is off limits. “The best way to deal with it is with patience because you never know, if you do anything to a teenager, you might get kicked out of the country.”
In July last year, the attack on an American tourist, brought the issue to the mainstream media. The victim, in this case, however, has made people believe that racism has very little to do with it.
But is Racism actually the cause?
Jonathan Dowling, a social worker from the North of Dublin, believes in a softer and a more understanding approach. He actively works towards creating a safe space for the children, through Belvedere Youth Club. According to him, Racism is only an angle given by the media.
“I don’t believe that the attacks are explicitly racist but I believe that they are being told racist by maybe the newspapers because of the people that they are attacking. I Don’t believe that people attack someone because of the colour of their skin or where they come from. I believe people attack people because they are angry. Or sometimes, when it is racially motivated, it’s generational racism where it is coming from the family, and the young person sent out the hate.”
Jonathan’s ultimate aim is to pull this issue out from its roots but the problem is way deeper than it seems. “My understanding is that a lot of the times, young people do things because they are not being listened to, whether that’s by the government body or a community and sometimes, they lash out. And when they lash out, unfortunately, there are consequences and when the consequences happen, I don’t believe the consequences are severe enough and the young person continues to commit crimes because they are not learning from the incident that happened”.
He also believes that communicating and educating is the key. “If you are having a sort of practice, for example, create a space where you listen to the young person.They might be angry, they might be sad, upset, and when you create a space to listen to them, they are more inclined to then listen to you, and it breaks the behaviour that is causing issues within the community. And then you might say, ‘Okay, this young person is coming from extreme poverty, there’s massive inequality, the young person does not have any positive adults in life or they are suffering from abuse from when they were a younger person’, that gives us the analysis to change the perspective.”
Explaining how drugs sometimes become a source of revenue for some underprivileged families, he said, “If there is a young person out there selling drugs, and the money comes back into the house, that’s trying to get out of poverty, it’s not really an ethical avenue but the money is coming to the house.”
He also stands against strengthening the criminal laws against teenagers. Garda and its approach towards the underprivileged communities is also at the heart of it, according to him.
“The police and the community do not have a great relationship so what happens is, if you put more police in or have more stringent measures, versus nearly zero tolerance. That creates a space which is police against the community and then that creates a negative atmosphere.”
It was never a smooth ride for Jonathan either. He was at the receiving end of these attacks back when he was just a child. “Me myself, when I was 15 years of age, I was stabbed in my community. I was stabbed as a young person and it did not even make it to the news. I was stabbed by someone who lived across the road from me, but again, I forgive that person, that person had a lot of troublesome background. I am okay with that now, I can see that now, I can understand that and I moved beyond that. Since that person committed the crime against me, he has continually committed crimes, why? Because he is getting arrested, gets put in the car, thrown in the prison and then back on the streets. Arrested, put in the car, prison, back on the street, everytime.”
Jonathan Dowling is also of the strong opinion that the Irish government is more concerned about painting a safe picture. “But we don’t see it as national news because it is not international people coming over. So sometimes, I think the Irish government is more worried about what it looks like outside the country when things like this happen and don’t care when inside of the country.”
Whether or not strengthening the laws against teenagers is the right move, is still a debatable topic. Given we are talking about children and teens here, putting them behind bars without a warning is, as Jonathan mentioned, a little too harsh. Having said that, does it give us the permission to overlook the fear and resentment that immigrants and international students go through? Well, let’s wait until another bigger attack I guess.