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Thursday 23 March 2023 Dublin: 7°C
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Homelessness services prepare for potential fallout of Citywest closing to new refugees
The development has raised concerns for the welfare of refugees who arrive into the country.

HOMELESSNESS SERVICES IN Dublin are preparing for the potential fallout of the anticipated closure of the Citywest processing centre to new arrivals from Ukraine.

Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman revealed on Thursday that the centre is expected to reach capacity and be unable to accept new arrivals within a few days.

He warned that the closure could potentially last for several weeks.

“This will be the third time that we’ve been in this situation. And I think that there is a risk that this time, the closure will be for a longer period,” he said, speaking on RTÉ’s News at One

“When we look at the available accommodation, we think this closure will be a longer one. It could be potentially a number of weeks.”

The development has raised concerns for the welfare of refugees who arrive in the country. 

Support services on the front line are monitoring the situation and preparing for the possibility of increased demand for their assistance.

In Dublin 8, the Mendicity Institution provides a meal service and daytime shelter with access to hygiene and phone charging facilities for people experiencing homelessness.

Speaking to The Journal, CEO Louisa Santoro outlined that some services will coordinate with each other ahead of an expected increase in pressure.

“When we hear these things on the news, we would speak often to our colleagues in other services saying we’ll be ready,” she explained.

“A lot of the advocacy and information services don’t have a food element. In many cases, it starts with addressing the immediate, most presenting needs. That means you can go from there and have a conversation about what’s the plan, what do we need.

“Whenever we hear news about larger services closing, we do always sort of brace ourselves so that we can have a reasonable response.

“No service can provide the answer to every question but certainly we’re in a position between us to know what the landscape is.”

Similarly, Alan Bailey, volunteer coordinator at the Capuchin Day Centre, said the centre intends to “cater accordingly” for a potential increase and that “we like to think that any demand that’s there, we can meet”.

“No one can predict what the numbers are going to be, so no more than the government, we can’t predict what’s going to come in, [but] we’re ready if there’s a big influx,” he said.

As long as people know they’re welcome here. Whatever we have, they’re welcome to.

“It’s only a case of walking up to the door and walking in. We don’t need to know who you are or what the circumstances are.”

The Capuchin Day Centre, located on 29 Bow Street in Dublin 7, is open from 7.30am to 3pm six days a week and provides two meals a day, while the Mendicity Institution can be found on 9 Island Street in Dublin 8, where its food service runs from 9.30am to 3.30pm on Monday to Friday. 

The government approved the leasing of the Citywest Hotel for two years to accommodate Ukrainian refugees last May.

The centre previously closed to new arrivals in October when it reached capacity.  

Head of Office with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ireland Enda O’Neill said that it has “been clear for some time that the Department of Integration’s reliance on privately contracted accommodation could not be maintained beyond an initial emergency response”.

“At the moment, it appears that only an urgent intervention at the most senior level across national and local government will prevent large numbers of people becoming homeless,” O’Neill said.

“Only by purchasing or building accommodation, by erecting adequate temporary shelter or prefabricated buildings on state land and by refurbishing suitable vacant buildings can the government hope to meet the anticipated needs for the year ahead.” 

As of 11 December, the latest data available from the Central Statistics Office, 67,448 people who fled the war in Ukraine had arrived in Ireland.  

In recent weeks, protests that have been co-opted by far-right organisers have drawn on the number of homeless people in Ireland to argue against accommodating refugees.

However, counter-protesters have highlighted that homelessness has been a problem in Ireland long before the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

A statement from the Department of Integration and Equality last week said that it “deplores these protests which are intimidating vulnerable international protection applicants who have fled war and persecution”.

The department said the protests were also causing “fear and distress for centre staff and management”.

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