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A tent being destroyed today in the Mount Street area in Dublin City. Leah Farrell/
Asylum Seekers

Government accused of 'playing games' as some asylum seekers bussed to Dublin Mountains return to city

Many tents and people’s belongings had been removed from the area.

A NUMBER OF asylum seekers who had been bussed from a makeshift camp in Dublin city centre to the Dublin Mountains this morning returned to the area this afternoon after some of the tents they had been staying in had been destroyed.

Over 100 men that had been living in tents near the International Protection Office in Dublin were taken by buses and taxis today to a rural location south county Dublin where there were given tents and invited to make a new camp.

In a statement to The Journal this morning, a spokesperson for the Department of Integration said it had offered “alternative shelter” to all of the international protection applicants in the makeshift campsite.

Opposition politicians and volunteers working with the men have noted that the relocation came just before St Patrick’s Day, one of the capital’s biggest tourism events.

The relocation has also been criticised from some within the government parties, with former Minister for Justice, Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan describing the situation as “just shocking”, adding on X, “Anybody in charge?”.

The department spokesperson said: “All those who accepted the offer will be provided tented accommodation at a site in Crooksling, where food, personal toiletries, toilet and shower facilities are also available.”

The conditions in the makeshift campsite in the Mount Street area had seriously deteriorated in the last two weeks, with political pressure and pressure from NGOs volunteer groups put on the Government to address the issue.

The men were taken near to the St Brigid’s Nursing Home in Crooksling. The nursing home itself was the recent site of a fire, believed to have been an arson attack.

The fire broke out as the nursing home was being considered for use as accommodation for asylum seekers. A number of anti-immigration demonstrators attended the area today, with videos and pictures showing gardaí and people present waving tricolour flags.

REFUGEES TRY TO RETURN TO DUBLIN 4493_90701291 A demonstrators with a tricolour flag following a man as he leaves the area in Crooksling. Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

The Journal understands that some of the asylum seekers left the area and returned to Dublin city centre. Images from the Mount Street area show that a major clean up operation has taken place, with all the tents being destroyed and cleared away.

Speaking to TheJournal, one man who had previously stayed in the Mount Street area said he saw other men’s belongings being destroyed.

“I tried as much as I could to remove the refugees’ bags from the tents before they were destroyed,” said the man, who is originally from Palestine.

Rachel, a member of a local volunteer group which bought food, duvets and tarps for the men who were camping at Mount Street, said the men she spoke to today didn’t know where they were going.

“They didn’t know where they were going or to what, they thought they were being brought to permanent accommodation. When they got there, they were given a tent and a ground mat and a sleeping bag and told to pitch tents out there.”

She said it’s “very hard to not be cynical” about the fact the site was cleared just before before St Patrick’s Day.

“Some of the men themselves have said, ‘There is a festival tomorrow. We’re basically in the same circumstances, but we’re just not visible’.”

‘Genuinely disgraceful’

Amanda, from the same local volunteer group, said she went to the Mount Street site today to try salvage some tents.

“I had gone down with a view to try and salvage some of the tarps and stuff, we’ve spent a fortune on them over the last couple of weeks,” she said.

“I arrived not long after 11am but they had already started to dismantle the camp.” 

661Immigration Tents The scene in Dublin City today. Leah Farrell / © Leah Farrell / © / ©

Between 100 and 200 men have been at the Mount Street site over the last few weeks, and most appeared to take the buses today. Some have since returned and are trying to source accommodation.

A number of men were gone for breakfast, or to pray in the mosque for Ramadan, when the buses arrived and when they came back some of their tents and belongings were gone.

“A few men wandered back and their stuff was gone, they were totally unaware of the buses that were there, they had no knowledge of what was happening. The communication was pretty scant,” Amanda said.

Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin accused the government of “playing a game” in moving asylum seekers from one set of tents to another.  He described the situation as “genuinely disgraceful”.

He said: “The sense of disappointment [after we thought] we were getting proper accommodation is really, really palpable.

“We feel that the government are playing a game, this is all for show. I didn’t want to believe that. I really wanted to believe that the advocacy had actually worked and the government were taking this seriously.”

“What has happened is they have just moved the situation from one place to another.”

He said although there is less risk of infection at the new site, that at Mount Street the men had access to local facilities and mosques.

Ó Riordáin said he did not want to be cynical, but the site was “in the eyeline of tourists”.

He questioned why tents were allowed to remain a presence outside the International Protection Office for several months “and then moved on St Patrick’s weekend”.

“We wanted this to be moved, we wanted people to be given more dignity, but if the alternative is tents on the side of a mountain, it’s hard to know if we’re just being played,” Ó Riordáin said.

Volunteers also expressed the view that the men were being relocated because of the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the city.

It is understood that Minister Roderic O’Gorman is currently in Japan as part of Ireland’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

His office has been contacted for additional comment, including on security at the Crooksling site given the previous arson attack in the area.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said: “Following the relocation of the International Protection Applicants by IPAS, contractors working on behalf of Dublin City Council removed the waste and tents that were left behind as they were causing an obstruction on the public footpath.” 

Leaving accommodation 

The Journal has seen photos of piles of tents and ground mats on the ground at the rural location where the men were taken by bus to this morning.

The department spokesperson said that toilets, showers, food, access to health services, and transport links to Dublin will be put into place at the new location. It said it would ensure with healthcare providers to “ensure the wellbeing of those on site”.

“Anyone who chooses to refuse this offer or leave the space offered by IPAS are of course entitled to make that choice. However, for their own safety and health, we do not recommend anyone return to Mount St as it does not have the facilities or security,” the spokesperson said.

When asked by The Journal about tents being provided to the asylum seekers, a spokesperson said: “That’s all we had available.”

International Protection-11_90699754 Homeless tents across the road from the International Protection Office in Dublin in February. Sasko Lazarov / Sasko Lazarov / /

The Department earlier said that the situation in relation to accommodation “remains very challenging. The supply of available accommodation is severely diminished”. 

“What accommodation can be opened at this point is primarily being utilised for families in order to avoid women and children becoming homeless. Since January, approximately 2,400 beds have been brought into use for those seeking accommodation.”

Rubbish piling up

In recent weeks, rubbish had continued to pile up in the area at Mount Street while the toilets asylum seekers had been told to use during the day were over 2km away from their tents. 

Volunteers said that the build-up of rubbish, exposure to the cold and lack of toilet and laundry facilities was contributing to the spread of infections, including respiratory illness, and scabies. 

People living in the camp told The Journal that they had experienced a number of attacks, including one incident where a group of men hit their tents with sticks during the night, while they were trying to sleep. 

river (100) A large amount of rubbish had built up near the tents. Eimer McAuley / The Journal Eimer McAuley / The Journal / The Journal

There have also been repeated incidents where people have driven through the street where the tents are set up, beeping their car horns repeatedly. 

Videos of these incidents have remained online on platforms such as Facebook and X, despite having been reported. 

Opposition TDs and members of Dublin City Council’s housing committee expressed anger at both the Department of Housing and the Department of Integration over what they described as the “appalling situation”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also been criticised for comments he made in Washington, where he said he would tell asylum seekers passing through safe countries that accommodation cannot be guaranteed to them here. 

Varadkar told The Journal on Tuesday that he would have “no difficulty” visiting the asylum seekers in the tents, but that he didn’t think a visit from him will “change the situation”. 

The State ran out of accommodation to offer asylum seekers back in September, after multiple warnings from the Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman that supply was running low.

With reporting from Press Association

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Jane Moore, Eimer McAuley, Órla Ryan and Cormac Fitzgerald