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'They operate in a vacuum': Migrant rights group hits out at lack of inspections for hotels housing asylum seekers

There are currently over 1,500 asylum seekers living in Emergency Accommodation.

MIGRANT RIGHTS CENTRE NASC has criticised a lack of inspections of hotels and B&Bs housing asylum seekers in Ireland and called for greater scrutiny by the Department of Justice & Equality. 

Asylum seekers have been placed in hotels and B&Bs due to difficulties opening new Direct Provision centres since September 2018. 

Ireland’s 39 Direct Provision centres are subject to inspections by The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS), or RIA as it was previously titled. 

Hotels and B&Bs contracted by the Department since September 2018 do not fall within this framework.

A spokesperson for The Department told TheJournal.ie that many of the properties used continue to operate as commercial hotels and guesthouses.

CEO of NASC Fiona Finn told TheJournal.ie: “Although it may be legally permissible to make distinctions between Emergency Accommodation and Direct Provision centres, Emergency Accommodation cannot continue to operate in a vacuum without any oversight.”

Last week, a video circulated of alleged overcrowding at the East End Hotel in Portarlington, Co Laois. 

In response, and after contacting the hotel’s management, the Department of Justice said the video appeared “to have been staged”.

The Department later defended the numbers sleeping in a different room the East End Hotel after the initial video circulated. 

‘Ongoing Difficulties’ 

There are currently over 1,500 international protection applicants – including 274 children – living in emergency accommodation with 37 hotels and B&Bs contracted by IPAS/RIA to provide bed and board.

The Department of Justice has paid over €29 million to private businesses providing emergency accommodation since last year. 

The average daily rate paid to Direct Provision centre operators is €35 per night, according to the Department. The average cost for emergency accommodation is €100 per person per night, TheJournal.ie recently reported

Over the past year, a number of issues for those living in hotels and B&Bs have been reported by TheJournal.ie including difficulties accessing GP services, delays in PPS numbers being allocated in order to receive weekly payment, lack of educational access for children and unsuitable accommodation.

Criticism has been levelled at a lack of vulnerability assessments for people entering the country before being moved directly to emergency accommodation. These assessments aim to identify specific reception needs for people. 

Remote – and at times strict – accommodation setups have been highlighted to RIA by the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI).  

TheJournal.ie reported ongoing difficulties for people living at The Clayton Hotel in Dublin. 

Emails released under FOI show that in May, the Department of Social Welfare and Protection (DEASP) alerted the Justice Department to a visit paid by staff to the Dunkerrin Arms in Co Offaly. 

The hotel was contracted by IPAS/RIA to provide accommodation to asylum seekers but when DEASP staff arrived they deemed the hotel closed. 

“When they arrived… it was boarded up with no staff present,” an email sent to RIA states. 

Hotel staff eventually arrived and opened the hotel. The DEASP reported it had “serious concerns” about the premises but after improvements, RIA took the decision to not move asylum seekers living there. 

‘Inspections’ 

Last year, the Government published the National Standards for people in the International Protection process which included the establishment of an Independent Inspectorate for Direct Provision centres. 

Inspections by IPAS staff take place on a pre-arranged basis at Ireland’s 39 centres. 

According to a Justice Department spokesperson, the Government is “committed to a robust Independent Inspection process to monitor and ensure compliance with the Standards following their implementation.”

They added that it had yet to be finalised how this Inspectorate will operate. 

Nasc’s Finn said that these National Standards were finalised before the use of Emergency Accommodation. 

Said Finn: “This is especially concerning as people are now spending longer and longer periods of time in Emergency Centres where their reception rights are not guaranteed.

“Clear safeguards should be put in place, including an Independent Inspectorate in any setting where vulnerable people are being accommodated.”

The Department spokesperson said that opening new Direct Provision centres in 2020 will “minimise or eliminate” the use of Hotels and B&Bs.

They added that it does not expect inspections of Emergency Accommodation to take place. 

“The question of [National] Standards applying to Emergency Accommodation locations is, therefore, not expected to arise when the Standards become subject to monitoring in January 2021,” they said. 

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