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The Department of Integration confirmed this week that the Citywest Transit Hub will no longer be able to accommodate International Protection Seekers due to capacity issues. Leah Farrell

Fears closure of Citywest to new International Protection arrivals 'clear breach' of human rights obligations

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has called on Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman to reverse the decision.

THE IRISH HUMAN Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has alleged that Ireland is in “clear breach” of its international obligations after the State stopped providing emergency shelter for new International Protection applicants at the Citywest Transit Hub.

The Citywest closed to new arrivals earlier this week, though it will remain open for all other matters, including processing of accommodation for Ukrainian Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection (BOTP).

The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) will also continue to provide accommodation for IP families with children.

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth told The Journal that since the Citywest’s closure, over 20 International Protection applicants have been left without accommodation.

The IHREC has called on Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman to reverse the decision and for the Government to “use all of the powers at its disposal to address this situation”.

In a statement to The Journal, the IHREC said it has written to the Minister about the matter and that it is “deeply concerned” at the Department’s communication that the Citywest will no longer provide accommodation for single people without children.

The Commission said it believes that this is a clear breach of the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018 (S.I. No. 230/2018) and the related European Directive.

“While the legislation does envisage an exceptional situation where housing capacity is temporarily exhausted, it stipulates that, in these cases, and for as short a period as possible, an applicant’s basic needs must still be met,” the IHREC said.

“However, we believe that these basic needs are not being met in circumstances where no accommodation is provided to new applicants for International Protection.”

The Commission alleged that there may also be further breaches of the law with respect to the provision of other conditions including food, a daily expense allowance, clothes and access to healthcare.

“As Ireland’s national human rights institution, we believe that it is unacceptable, both legally and morally, that Ireland does not meet the basic needs of applicants for International Protection, many of whom are vulnerable persons,” the IHREC continued.

The refusal of shelter by the State renders these individuals even more vulnerable to destitution and exploitation.

“We ask the Minister to reverse this decision and the Government to use all of the powers at its disposal to address this situation. We also seek urgent clarification from the Department as to what is being done to provide subsistence support to newly arrived applications for International Protection, who are not being offered accommodation.”

The IHREC also said it believes that standards in accommodation, “which is already housing many thousands of applicants for International Protection and Temporary Protection, need to be addressed”.

IHREC chief commissioner Sinéad Gibney said Ireland’s alleged breach of international obligations “is both legally and morally unacceptable”.

“Many of the people coming here have already suffered trauma in the countries they are fleeing,” Gibney said.

Accommodating people who seek asylum into Ireland is not a choice: it is our obligation, one that we have signed up to. The State must move out of emergency mode, and implement a long term, whole-of-Government approach that reflects the reality of the world we now live in.

This is the third time the Citywest has closed to new arrivals, but Minister O’Gorman warned last week that the current closure will be “for a longer period”.

In a previous statement to The Journal, the Department said it is “no longer possible to provide emergency shelter to International Protection adults as the Transit Hub has now reached capacity”.

The Department added that any IPAs who are not provided with accommodation upon arrival or when applying for International Protection will have their contact details taken and be contacted as soon as accommodation becomes available.

In a further statement to The Journal, the Department said International Protection Applicants “may also source their own accommodation or stay with family or friends”.

Ahead of the announcement of the closure, homeless services had begun preparing for the possibility of increased demand for their assistance if the Citywest were to close.

Last week, Irish Refugee Council CEO Nick Henderson told RTÉ’s Drivetime that the closure would be “the most grave and serious moment in Ireland’s history of refugee protection”.

“In effect, it would mean that we cannot accommodate men who seek protection here. Families and single women would be accommodated, we understand. In effect, and let’s be very clear about this, this would mean large-scale homelessness of male protection applicants,” Henderson said.

He said the matter must be brought to “the very top of Government” to ensure that the closure does not result in a “mass homelessness crisis”.

In a statement this evening, CEO of Dublin Simon Community Catherine Kenny said the charity’s outreach team is out on the streets every day of the week to support people sleeping rough to access accommodation. 

“At present, the team is not seeing an increase in the number of asylum seekers bedding down on the streets of Dublin late at night, however, as with every vulnerable person they meet, our team will do everything in their power to support any asylum seekers then encounter,” Kenny said.

She said the organisation “will continue to support everyone we can”, but warned that its services are “already operating at and beyond capacity as we grapple with the highest levels of homelessness we have seen in our over 50 years of service provision”. 

“It is not acceptable for anyone to have to sleep on the street, in an airport, a car, on friends’ couches or in an inappropriate and unsustainable living environment without the adequate supports.

“At present, the system is failing all of these people and we are calling on Government to deliver a functioning housing market and short, medium and long-term solutions for all those in need as a matter of urgency.”

The Department of Integration was contacted for comment.