The entrance to the Knockalisheen centre yesterday. David Raleigh

Almost 100 refugees remain in tents in Co Clare during cold weather

Local Fianna Fáil politician Cathal Crowe said it was “inhumane” to allow people to live in tents during the winter.

A SMALL NUMBER of a group of 103 adult male refugees who were living in tents provided by the State in Co Clare during the recent cold weather were being moved to warmer and more suitable accommodation, however almost 100 remained in the tents as there was no alternative solutions available.

The international protection applicants (IPAs), who are living in the tents at Knockalisheen, near Limerick City, since last September, had complained about their living conditions, particularly during the present cold snap, and despite the State’s efforts to warm the structures.

The men are residing in “thirteen multi-purpose tactical shelter tents, each accommodating eight people” on lands owned by the office of public works, said a spokesman for the department of children, equality, disability, integration and youth, which has responsibility for providing accommodation for asylum applicants.

On Friday, ninety-seven of the men remained in the tents – constructed by members of the Defence Forces last July – as there was no alternative accommodation available.

Local Fianna Fáil politician Cathal Crowe said it was “inhumane” to allow people to live in the tents.

Officials from the department would “continue to seek accommodation solutions” for the men, who were being “prioritised to move to suitable accommodation as it becomes available”, said the spokesman.

The spokesman said the department was dealing with “significantly increased numbers of arrivals (off refugees) in the context of accommodation shortages and that the Department has no option but to consider all offers of accommodation.”

He said that in the last 12 months 14,700 IPAs have arrived in ireland, including 13,600 since 1 January – compared with an average 3,500 IPA arrivals between 2017 and 2019.

“There are 103 IPAs in this facility, however 6 IPAs will move to alternative accommodation today”.

The tents are situated adjacent to a direct provision centre which accommodates 200 further asylum applicants, at Knockalisheen.

Crowe, who lives near the site, said: “I have grave concerns, these tents are not appropriate accommodation, certainly not in winter months, I would consider that during wintertime, it is inhumane to have people in tents.”

006 Gormanston Tent Village File photo of tent accomodations which were set up in the Gormanstown Army Camp in Co Meath this summer. Department of the Taoiseach Department of the Taoiseach

Dr John Lannon, of migrant rights group Doras, said it was “pleased that the movement of people from the tents in Knockalisheen is getting underway, however the problem is that it has dragged on for months now for the men who are in Knockalisheen”.

Lannon said he appreciated “that if there is a sudden surge, the tents are a little bit better than being left homeless on the streets, and that the tents may be called into use for a very short period of time”.

However, he added the men were in the tents for four months and “a sense of hopelessness” was setting in.

There are no bathroom facilities in the tents so the men have to walk to the nearby accommodation centre to wash and use toilets.

“It has a negative impact on their physical and mental well-being; there is no privacy or personal space, and it is extremely cold and wet if they have to go outside to go to a toilet, at any time, but particularly at night.”

Reliable sources said the men were sleeping in several layers of clothing “trying to keep warm”.

The department spokesman said: “Each tent is raised off the ground and has two fan heaters installed, and is subdivided into mini bedrooms.”

“Residents are on a full-board basis with the site operator providing a catering service, resident use the main dining room, there are also two shower blocks with toilet and wash-hand basin facilities on site, and drinking water dispensers are provided.”

Clare Immigrant Support Centre co-ordinator, Orla Ní Éilí, said it was “very concerned” for the men’s mental and physical health.

“It’s just completely unsuitable, and it is causing an extra layer of anxiety and hardship for these people,” said Ní Éilí.

“It is imperative to get all these people out of these tents, the government is in charge of this and it is not an option that should be used,” she added.

Crowe said he found the last few nights “particularly cold and I’m living in a house with a central heating system and warm duvets, (so) I shudder to think what its like for people who are living in these tents”.

The Department spokesman said: “While the current reliance on emergency settings is less than ideal, these options are necessary in order to provide shelter to international protection arrivals and to prevent homelessness”.

“The Department is availing of all offers of accommodation made to it, including the use of office buildings and sports facilities to address the accommodation shortfall,” they said.

“Since 24 February 2022, the Department has worked to facilitate the accommodation solution for both IP applicants and over 49,000 Ukrainian beneficiaries of temporary protection (BOTPs), an unprecedented volume of people seeking refuge in Ireland.”

“The pressure to accommodate over 67,000 people since the start of the year has led to significant shortages particularly for the international protection seekers.”

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