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Workers removing tents on Mount Street earlier this week.
Criticism

Harris says asylum seekers in Ballsbridge park is 'temporary thing done by people being very humane'

About 100 men were told yesterday that there was no accommodation available for them.

LAST UPDATE | 3 May

OPPOSITION PARTIES HAVE strongly criticised the Government’s response as men seeking international protection have again been informed there is no accommodation available for them in the State.

However, Taoiseach Simon Harris has said he is “very comfortable” with the position the government took.

It comes as around a dozen asylum seekers arrived at St Mary’s Church Park in Ballsbridge last night.

over-a-dozen-tents-which-have-been-pitched-by-asylum-seekers-on-the-grounds-of-st-marys-park-in-ballsbridge-south-dublin-picture-date-friday-may-3-2024 Over a dozen tents which have been pitched by asylum seekers on the grounds of St Mary's Park in Ballsbridge, south Dublin Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The crisis in providing accommodation to asylum seekers has been ongoing for months, caused by increased numbers of people arriving in Ireland and a lack of available places to house them.

The men had been told by the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) that there was no longer accommodation available.

The group of men left the Ballsbridge area at around 9am this morning.

The park is close to Mount Street, where hundreds of tents had been pitched until Wednesday morning when the makeshift campsite was cleared in a multi-agency operation.

Just under 290 people were removed from the encampment outside the International Protection Office (IPO) on Mount Street in Dublin 2 during a multi-agency operation.

They were relocated to alternative accommodation at Citywest and the Crooksling tented accommodation site.

However, yesterday around 100 men returned to Mount Street seeking accommodation and were told there was none available.

The men were handed a letter which stated: “Due to the accommodation shortage within IPAS no further offers of accommodation can be made at this time.

“We have recorded your details and when appropriate accommodation becomes available, we will contact you by email with an offer.”

Speaking in Belfast, Harris said: “It’s also not in the interest of the people who are sleeping in those tents, people who don’t have access to proper sanitation.

“We did provide 290 people from Mount Street and those who appeared in Mount Street that day with accommodation, with shelter, with access to sanitation, with food, with a much better scenario than had been allowed to develop on Mount Street.

“I am very comfortable with the position that we took and I believe it was necessary in relation to that.”

Harris added: “People did turn up at the International Protection Office yesterday and there wasn’t accommodation for all people.

“IPAS does have contact details for all those people. It is working to try and provide accommodation solutions for all those people.

“I think what we saw in St Mary’s was a temporary thing being done by people who were being very humane in terms of trying to provide assistance on property that wasn’t public.

“We work at this every single day but I need to be clear and honest with people coming to our country, we are doing our very best in a very difficult and challenging circumstances to provide accommodation.

“But accommodation isn’t always readily available but we keeping working at it day by day.”

Commenting on the crisis, Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said it was “an appalling situation where a small group of local volunteers are scrambling to provide shelter for the men left stranded”.

“We were assured on Tuesday and Wednesday a new plan would be put in place to accommodate those who have come here seeking refuge and now we see even after the big move on Wednesday there is simply nothing,” she said.

“I am writing again to Roderic O’Gorman, corresponding directly with him, seeking some indication as to what is to be done to the men who will be turning up today or tomorrow and over the weekend.

Whether there is any coherent plan in place for accommodating asylum seekers.

Bacik said that the Government was legally obliged to provide accommodation to those seeking refuge here.

“Legally they are. There’s been litigation on that. The question is what sanction if you like,” she said.

The court can order it but the Government keep telling us they have no capacity. We believe that’s just frankly not the case.

Bacik called for a whole of Government approach to the crisis, saying that buildings under the control of other departments – like the vacant hospital on Baggot Street and army barracks – should be used as accommodation.

“We do know that there are empty facilities and sites that are in state ownership that could be provided and it seems to us that the Department of Integration has been left to carry the can for far too long,” she said.

Also commenting on the issue, People Before Profit TD and European election candidate Bríd Smith echoed the calls to repurpose the hospital on Baggot Street:

“It is a 13 minute walk from the IPO to the vacant Baggot Street hospital building,” she said.

How can the government allow a situation in which international protection applicants are in tents or are walking the streets all night past Baggot Street hospital while it remains empty? The lack of Government urgency and basic humanity is appalling.

The Cabinet committee on migration met yesterday, with discussion centring around how government agencies have to be ready for more attempts to set down tents in the city centre, with ministers understood to have said they are determined not to allow it “fester”.

The committee also discussed how to improve communication on migration and integration at a local and national level. The Department of Integration has been contacted for comment.

With reporting from Órla Ryan, Christina Finn, and Press Association

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