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Asylum seekers told not to bring food to rooms 'under any circumstance' by Dublin hotel

Over 1,000 asylum seekers are now living in hotels and B&Bs around Ireland.

Capture Clayton Hotel, Liffey Valley Source: GoogleMaps

ASYLUM SEEKERS LIVING at a hotel in Dublin have been told not to bring food to their rooms amid ongoing issues for people living in emergency accommodation across Ireland. 

Since September, the Department of Justice & Equality has accommodated those seeking international protection in Ireland in hotels and B&Bs due to pressures on the Direct Provision system. 

Ireland’s 39 Direct Provision centres are currently at capacity. Until new centres come on-stream the Department’s Reception & Integration Agency (RIA) will continue to contract hotels and B&Bs, it has said. 

There are currently 1,068 international protection applicants – including 177 children – living in emergency accommodation. 

People living in these hotels and B&Bs have experienced a lack of service provision and have raised these issues with RIA. 

On Tuesday, the Clayton Hotel wrote to people living in the hotel saying that “under no circumstances should there be any food taken away in containers or bottles from breakfast, lunch or dinner time”.

“All food must be consumed within our dining areas,” the hotel wrote, despite regular guests at the hotel being allowed bring food to their rooms. 

“No food is allowed to be brought back to the hotel bedrooms,” the hotel wrote.

The Movement for Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) has crticised the hotel’s policy, saying that regular guests are allowed bring food to their rooms and called the practice discriminatory.

Meals for asylum seekers at the hotel are served between 9am and 5pm, according to one resident. Rooms are cleaned each day by hotel staff. 

Clayton Hotels did not respond to request for comment and queries asking if the same hotel rules apply to every guest staying at the hotel by time of publishing this article. 

According to a spokesperson for RIA, “any existing hotel policies are in place for all residents” of the hotel.

A spokesperson for MASI told TheJournal.ie that the letter issued ”shows the inappropriate nature of housing vulnerable people such as asylum seekers and people affected by homelessness in hotels and B&Bs for a prolonged period of time.”

The letter comes following criticism levelled at private hotel operators after MASI uncovered cramped conditions at a hotel in Portarlington, Co Laois. 

‘Totally Against’

Since September, the Department has paid almost €9 million to private businesses to accommodate international protection applicants.

There are currently 29 hotels and B&Bs in 12 counties contracted by RIA to provide bed and board to asylum seekers. 

Various groups – including MASI, Irish Refugee Council, Nasc, Immigrant Council of Ireland – have hit out at the policy. 

Crticism has been levelled at a lack of vulnerability assessments for people entering the country before being moved directly to emergency accommodation. 

A number of issues highlighted by residents so far include 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. 

According to a spokesperson for the Ombudsman’s Office – which is charged with examining complaints from people about public bodies and has visited Direct Provision centres since 2017 – “people in emergency accommodation tell us that they are experiencing difficulty accessing public services.”

In June, retired High Court Judge Dr Bryan McMahon, who chaired 2015’s working group report into the Direct Provision system, said he was “totally against” the use of emergency accommodation for asylum seekers and called on RIA to expand its stock by building on State-owned sites.

Deputy Secretary General Oonagh Buckley of the Justice Department told an Oireachtas Committee in June that the same standard of services in Direct Provision centres could not be provided in emergency set-ups.

Since hotels and B&Bs first came into use, only 285 people have been transferred to Direct Provision centres. 

‘Short-term Solution’ 

The EU Reception Conditions directive, which Ireland signed up to last year, states that the Minister for Justice may provide emergency accommodation. But it must be for “as short a time as possible”. 

Ireland is also legally required to conduct vulnerability assessments, which aim to identify special reception needs for asylum seekers and refugees.

Hotels and B&Bs will be in use “on a short-term basis”, a department spokesperson said,  despite a number of applicants living in emergency accommodation since last November.

The Department has confirmed to TheJournal.ie that it also has no role in carrying out inspections of emergency accommodation set-ups nor can it permit visits but said that RIA staff hold clinics where they meet with residents in emergency accommodation to address concerns. 

“The Department does not control access to private premises and for that reason, we are not in a position to allow a visit in the same way that is possible at RIA [Direct Provision] centres,” the spokesperson said. 

“RIA typically contracts a defined number of rooms within existing commercial hotels and guest houses and therefore does not have exclusive use of the premises,” they added.

“During the past twelve months, there has been a rise in the number of applications and this, combined with well-documented difficulties experienced by the RIA in opening new [Direct Provision] centres, has stretched the system to its full capacity.”

In June 2018, 234 people applied for international protections here compared with 383 people this year. 

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