Citywest in Dublin.
accommodation crisis

Documents reveal 'desperate' pleas among government departments to house asylum seekers

Newly released emails show the strain on department officials last January.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Integration clashed with Department of Housing officials as it scrambled to house International Protection applicants at the start of the year, new documents reveal.

Emails released under the Freedom of Information Act show a back and forth between officials as the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) sought to deal with the significant influx of people arriving in Ireland seeking International Protection.

The emails also reveal how the Department of Housing and the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) expressed concern over plans to signpost people to homelessness services following the closure of the emergency shelter at Citywest Transit Hub in January.

Last year and this year have seen a significant influx of people coming to Ireland to claim asylum or International Protection. This is coupled with the large number of refugees claiming temporary protection here as a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

In January, the subsequent strain on accommodation services came to a head, with the closure of the Citywest emergency accommodation facility to new arrivals. This effectively meant that anyone arriving here would not be offered accommodation and be left homeless (with the exception of Ukrainians, who are housed separately).

There were also significant local protests against the housing of IP applicants in disused hotels or community centres.

Request for accommodation

While the names and departments of the people involved have been redacted, it is clear that on 19 January (five days before the closure of Citywest) a DCEDIY official wrote to a number of local authorities seeking alternative accommodation for IP applicants.

In one email released to TheJournal, the department requested that Ukrainians be temporarily moved out of an accommodation centre Dún Laoghaire to be replaced with IP applicants.

“DCEDIY desperately needs assistance in this current crisis,” the official wrote.

An official in the Department of Housing (which also oversees local government) responded to the request, saying that the centre in question (as well another in Dublin Fingal) was specifically for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection (BOTPs) from Ukraine.

“The understanding at community level has also been that the facilities would be
dedicated to this purpose,” the official wrote.

We are of the view therefore that these facilities continue to focus solely on BOTP accommodation, while ensuring that they contribute to the maximum in assisting to relieve the overall pressures on accommodation.

The official then wrote that the local authorities were “extremely keen to assist” by housing as many Ukrainians as possible in the available centres.

“In order to fully use the available BOTP beds, I would ask that DCEDIY urgently review the other locations/buildings within your overall portfolio of accommodation locations that are currently housing Ukrainians, with a view to identifying any such locations which might be more suitable for IP applicants,” the official wrote.

In response, a DCEDIY official asked the department to “revisit what is a very reasonable request in really difficult conditions”.

If we are unable to access [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], hundreds of IP applicants will have to be made homeless over the next days, with implications for homeless services.

It is unclear what the final outcome of the email exchange was in relation to the accommodation.

Impact on homeless services

Following the closure of Citywest on 24 January, IP applicants coming to Ireland were offered no accommodation. On 23 January, a Department of Housing official wrote to a DCEDIY officials expressing the concerns of the department and the DRHE about the possible impact on homeless services.

“As you will be aware, the DRHE is not in a position to accommodate IP applicants. The DRHE are indeed at or extremely near capacity every night and the situation is the same in other functional areas,” the official wrote.

The official also expressed concerns that DCEDIY had planned to “signpost homeless day services to newly arriving International Protection applicants after the facility’s closure”.

“Day services are neither designed nor equipped to offer accommodation, and a great many staff would not have the language skills, resources and other training required to assist International Protection applicants,” the official wrote.

Clarification would assist as to where they are being referred to.

They also wrote that it was “especially regrettable” that Citywest was due to close during a period of cold weather.

“In light of the ongoing constraints on emergency accommodation and, as I’m sure you are aware, it is paramount that the International Protection Accommodation Service formulate an emergency response to prevent the widespread rough sleeping of International Protection applicants across the country,” the official wrote.

As weather conditions are frequently dropping to freezing levels, it is incumbent upon the Service to provide temporary emergency shelters for applicants.

Other documents released show the significant strain and organisation involved in managing and sourcing accommodation to respond to the influx of IP applicants, with multiple interdepartmental meetings and communications taking place.

In January, the state was housing about 54,000 Ukrainian refugees and close to 20,000 IP applicants. As of late last month, that figure had risen to about 70,000 Ukrainians and over 23,000 IP applicants.