Refugee’s threat to torch asylum worker’s home
By Fiona Ferguson & Sonya McLean
Tuesday February 09 2010
A Libyan teenager who threatened to follow an employee of the Refugee Reception and Integration Office and burn down her house after his request for accommodation was refused has been given a partly suspended sentence.
Hisham Ali Saad (19) became frustrated and overwhelmed at the asylum system following his arrival in Ireland alone in 2008 after his brother was shot dead during an anti-Gadaffi protest in Libya.
Saad, with an address at Cliffview Accommodation Centre, Coast Road, Donegal, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to making a threat to kill or cause serious harm at the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, Lower Mount Street on July 15, 2008.
Judge Tony Hunt told Saad at the initial sentence hearing in December: “You are not going to help your case for asylum by behaving this way. What would happen to someone in Libya acting this way?”
Judge Hunt said yesterday that Saad had to learn that he is not the only person who gets frustrated with the way public services are delivered and that this is not the fault of those staff concerned.
“It’s not open to Mr Saad or anyone else to behave in the way he did in response to some perceived annoyance,” the judge said. He described Saad’s actions as a credible threat meant to cause fear and said that it had left the woman “in such fear in that she had to get taxis home and change her routine”.
“I have to take a dim view of this kind of behaviour,” Judge Hunt said before he added that he would take into account that Saad’s circumstances in Ireland “were not the best” in that he had arrived in this country as an unaccompanied minor.
Judge Hunt sentenced Saad to four years before he gave him credit for the five months he had spent on remand in prison and suspended the balance on strict conditions.
Garda Stephen Nolan told Anne Marie Lawlor, prosecuting, that Saad attended at the Reception and Integration Office seeking accommodation.
A female staff member looked up his case and found he had been previously given accommodation by the office but left for behavioural reasons.
The woman told him he would not be given further accommodation and he became angry and left the centre. He returned and there was further incident in which a plastic bottle was smashed.
Saad returned again the following day and requested a letter saying he was not being given accommodation. The woman refused and said she felt in fear of him.
A male colleague of the woman came to speak to her after Saad had left and told her Saad had threatened in his presence to follow her home and burn down her house with her inside it. The woman told gardai she had never had such an incident before and had changed her routine.
Saad was arrested, made full admissions and expressed remorse.
Gda Nolan agreed with defence counsel, Caragh Cunniffe, that there was security staff at the front door.
Ms Cunniffe said Saad had gone to the Department of Justice after the first encounter but they had been unable to help him and he had slept on the street that night before returning and making the threat the following day.
Ms Cunniffe said she “could not disagree” with Judge Hunt when he remarked that Saad was partly responsible for being put out of his previous accommodation. She said he was “frustrated” at the asylum seeker process and being unable to work.
She said he was angry at the system which he thought was treating him unfairly and found it difficult being moved around the country to different accommodations and felt “emotionally and physically alone” after being uprooted from Dublin.
- Fiona Ferguson & Sonya McLean