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Homeless tents across the road from the International Protection Office in Dublin Sasko Lazarov
Asylum Seekers

DCC councillors discussed the tents near Mount Street yesterday and let loose on the government

Councillors said the Government needs to look at providing emergency measures for these individuals at a greenfield site.

MEMBERS OF DUBLIN City Council’s housing committee have expressed anger at both the Department of Housing and the Department of Integration over the growing number of asylum seekers living in tents near the International Protection Office in Dublin. 

At a meeting of the committee yesterday, members did not hold back in their frustration at the Government over what they deemed an “appalling situation”. 

While it is not within the remit of Dublin City Council and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) to provide accommodation or services to the asylum seekers who have been forced to sleep on the streets of Dublin, many councillors have asked that the Council step in where it can. 

In September, the State ran out of accommodation to offer asylum seekers and now over 1,200 international protection applicants are living in Ireland without accommodation.

Yesterday, The Journal reported on the inhumane conditions asylum seekers and one homeless Irish woman have been left to contend with on Mount Street in Dublin where over 100 tents have been set up. 

Rubbish has continued to pile up in the area while the toilets these individuals have been told to use during the day are over 2km away from their tents. 

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

Council demands

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn raised the issue at yesterday’s Dublin City Council housing committee meeting.

Flynn said the situation is appalling, “totally unacceptable” and has gotten dangerous. 

In response, the director of Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) Mary Hayes said the organisation will collect waste but that accommodation for asylum seekers falls outside the remit of the DRHE. 

Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney asked if the Council can look into providing basic facilities like toilets for those left living in tents despite it not being the Council’s responsibility.

Independent Cieran Perry added that he understands why the Council or DRHE does not want to get involved in the “fiasco” but said the Council should at least collect the overflow of waste in the area. 

Perry described it as a “tent city” and said the Council should at least step in in terms of sanitation and waste collection, even where the waste is left on private property.

“Let [the Department of Integration] take the hit for not being able to organise anything and the disgraceful situation up there. But for us to try and come out of this with any credibility we really should prioritise sanitation and the waste collection,” he said. 

Green Party Councillor Hazel Chu echoed Councillor Cooney’s point on the need to provide portaloos and asked if the committee can write to the Department of Housing and the Department of Integration to convey the urgency of this situation. 

Chair of the Housing SPC Labour Councillor Alison Gilliand said she was happy to do this. 

Gilliand said both Councillors and DCC officials are all appalled at what is going on and she noted a previous suggestion from Councillor Dermot Lacey that the nearby empty Baggot Street Hospital could be considered as an accommodation centre for these people.

She said:

It does seem that there is a washing of hands when it comes to dealing with it.

Gilliand added: “It’s incumbent on us all that we both privately and publicly raise as much noise as we can about this”.

Fine Gael Councillor James Geoghegan said the situation is “completely out of control”.

He said it is “not sustainable” for the Department of Integration, the International Protection Accommodation Service and other state authorities to allow the situation to continue as it is.

Geoghegan said an interim plan is needed and that the Department of Integration and IPAS must take the lead on it.

“We’ve seen how when it came to Ukrainian refugees and there was a lack of shelter there were interim plans placed on greenfield sites where refugees stayed in tents. Obviously [this was] not an ideal situation but at least the very basic humanitarian needs could be supported.

“Mount Street is not the place for portaloos and washing facilities – it’s just simply not possible at that site to support it. It’s in a deplorable condition.

“We simply can’t allow this situation to continue and I hope the Department are listening,” Geoghegan said. 

Dr Kevin Byrne, the chair of South Georgian Core Residents Association said the situation is “disgraceful” and noted that it is the second time in 12 months that there has been a huge tent encampment allowed to emerge on Lower Mount Street. 

Byrne, who sits on the DCC committee as a representative of the Dublin City Public Partipation Network called on public representatives to visit the area to see how bad things are. 

Byrne echoed the request that the committee and the Council should write publicly to the Department of Integration expressing their frustration with this situation. 

He said:

This is a situation created by the action and inaction of Government and needs to be dealt with at that level.

Byrne said he understands peoples’ instinct to look at emergency-type sanitation interventions but said Lower Mount Street is not the appropriate place for a “tent encampment”.

“If we need emergency measures we should be looking at land the state owns where emergency tents can be camped and basic sanitation provided if we need an emergency response – which we obviously do now,” he said. 

In the last week the number of tents increased dramatically and the amount of waste is much more than has been there previously, Byrne said.

He noted that residents are now avoiding the area and businesses are looking to shutter because it is a struggle for them to stay in business with what is around them. 

He called on the Council and Councillors to be much more public in their statements on the issue.

Labour Councillor Kevin Donoghue suggested that the Council should also outline some of the support that could be provided by it to the Department of Integration.

“I totally accept that it is not the responsibility of DRHE but I think it is very difficult to explain to a person living in those circumstances that it’s not our responsibility and someone else should have to deal with it,” he said.

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