Judge Barney McElholm criticised government plans to send genuine asylum seekers to Rwanda while they are unable to stop organised beggar gangs coming here.
Judge McElholm made his comments as two men appeared before Derry Magistrate’s Court charged with begging.
Stefan Stanciu (35) and Constantine Bacrau (20) both of no fixed abode admitted begging on April 20.
A police officer told the court that Stanciu was observed on CCTV begging on the Peace Bridge and had previously been warned and cautioned for the same offence.
Bacrau was observed begging outside the Richmond Centre and he too had previously been cautioned about the same thing.
A police officer told the court that since 2018 ‘Romanian nationals with no means of support’ had been coming to the city begging and refusing all assistance.
The court heard that a protocol had been set up involving police and various bodies including the City Centre Initiative to ensure anyone in genuine need could access food, clothing and accommodation but these people have never availed of that.
Defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott said that the court could take the view that this was some sort of organised activity and Judge McElholm said the court did take that view.
The judge said people fly in mainly to Dublin and come North and after a period return to Romania.
He said this was ‘a professionally organised criminal operation’ and added there was no need for anyone to be begging in Derry.
The judge said ‘we can’t allow this to go on’, and said some way had to be found to keep such people out.
Judge McElholm appealed to the people of Derry: “Do not give these people money as they are not genuine.”
He said if people felt they had to do something they should give money to St Vincent de Paul.
Imposing a one month sentence suspended for three years Judge McElholm said the ‘incompetence is staggering’ as regards the immigration system and said ‘a lunatic’ would not think up the idea of sending people 4,000 miles to Africa.