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Some of the items that have been donated to the East Wall Here For All community group. East Wall Here For All
East Wall

'We have to live together and get along': The local East Wall group welcoming refugees to the area

Volunteers working in the group told The Journal that feedback from people in the area has been “so positive”.

A COMMUNITY GROUP in Dublin’s East Wall working to support asylum seekers in the area has said that residents have been extremely supportive of their efforts and expressed their own desire to help out.

East Wall Here For All, founded earlier this month by residents in the locality, are working to support hundreds of asylum seekers who have recently moved into the old ESB building in the area.

Protests have been held in the area since the asylum seekers were housed in the building, with those in attendance calling for it to be closed.

One asylum seeker living in the building told The Journal that she had safety concerns for some women and families housed there.

With around 45 volunteers who work every day, the East Wall Here For All group has been meeting those living in the centre as well as fundraising and seeking donations for basic items that they do not have.  

The group is also taking guidance from MASI and RAMSI, two advocate groups for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, to ensure best practice in its community outreach efforts.

Paddy O’Dea, who is involved in the community group, told The Journal that it was formed after a number of local residents expressed a desire to help those living in the centre.

“There was maybe a hesitancy in the first few weeks of how to come at this in a constructive manner. Coming to it in a solution-focused manner of: ‘how do we make these new members of the community feel more welcome?’, it has been incredible to see that in action,” he said.

“It is a huge collective effort across the community. Even the guys who were canvassing at the weekend, going door-to-door to actually tell people who we are and what we’re about, the resounding feedback was so positive. It has been really incredible to see how people have rallied and come with different skill sets and made their time available. It’s been great.”

Kate Bedford, who is volunteering with the group, told The Journal that she got involved with the East Wall Here For All group because “I wanted my area to be known as somewhere that’s welcoming and open and helpful and that we care about each other”.

“That’s always been my experience of East Wall, and I think from us all getting together and chatting to each other, we can see that that is still the heart of East Wall,” she said.

“We want to help people who are in an incredibly vulnerable situation. People have basic needs and they need to be met. We’re not saying this is suitable accommodation for anyone, but we want to find ways to make it as comfortable for people for as long as they may be in our area.

We don’t want to be antagonistic. We want to make sure that people have a home here.

The Journal spoke to one asylum seeker staying in the building in East Wall who is being supported by the group. The young woman said that having come to Ireland seven months ago from North Africa with a friend, she was initially living in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in north Dublin.

“It was nice. It was secure. We had our own room, our own privacy. It was good for us,” she said.

Safety concerns

However, hundreds of asylum seekers, including the young woman, then received a letter informing them that they would have to leave the Crowne Plaza hotel at 9am the following day as the State’s six-month-contract with the hotel had expired.

She said that the group was then sent to East Wall. “We don’t know the place, we didn’t know that it’s an office and everything. We were so confused. When we came here, we waited from 9am until 8pm to get our room,” she said.

She said the rooms there are cubicles partitioned by plastic screen dividers. “It’s horrible. You can hear the voices, even the breath of your neighbour, you can hear.”

The young woman, who was a nurse in her home country, said she doesn’t feel safe in the building as there is no privacy.

She also said that there are only two washing machines in the basement shared between everyone staying there, and on the floor that she is on, with other women and families, there are only three bathrooms. 

We were surprised about the situation. We are single women, so it was a little bit hard for us because there are a lot of single men there, a lot of cultures there, you know? It’s mixed, so that makes us feel uncomfortable with the situation.

There is a mother with a newborn baby living in the centre who did not have a cot or clothes for her baby, while two other women in the centre are also due to give birth soon. 

A local midwife, Alice Dunne, has offered to give advice and information to the pregnant women and new parents living in the centre.

a74c585e-4389-451e-b7ed-7e1409815d63 Local midwife Alice Dunne with some donations for the centre. East Wall Here For All East Wall Here For All

“No matter where you’re from or your living situation, pregnancy, childbirth and being a new parent are some of the hardest times of your life,” she said.

“It absolutely takes a village, so I was happy to show these women that there is support for them here in East Wall.”

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said: “The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) centre at East Wall – Two Gateway – now has 364 residents. This is mainly comprised of families, along with couples and single females and males. This is within the capacity of the facility.

“The health and wellbeing of all people who avail of accommodation provided by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) is of the highest priority to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth,” the spokesperson said.

They said that IPAS is always available to deal with any complaints from residents and that residents are “encouraged to engage with IPAS if they are unhappy with any aspect of their accommodation”.

“Minor complaints may be raised with centre managers in order for them to be resolved locally. Where a complaint is significant in nature or a resident is not comfortable raising a complaint with a centre manager, they may make the complaint directly, or through a representative authorised to act on their behalf, to the IPAS Customer Service Team.

“All residents also have access to an independent support helpline operated by the Jesuit Refugee Service and funded by the Department. IPAS also runs resident welfare clinics at all new accommodation centres.”

The spokesperson said that since the international protection applicants arrived in the accommodation centre, the operator has proactively engaged with the residents. “This has resulted in positive outcomes and a large majority of residents are happy with the services and the location,” they said.

“Families and single males are segregated on separate floors. On the family floors there are a number of fathers residing there with their families in their own rooms. All accommodation is self-contained. The rooms and pods reach a height of 2.5m, therefore it is not possible for residents to overlook into a neighbouring pod or room. Each room or pod has integrated locks and there are security personnel on each floor at all times.”

Roxanna Nic Liam, who is also volunteering with the community group, told The Journal that while the group is happy to help, it is the Government’s responsibility and she would “love for them to engage more”.

“I love that I am able to help in some way, but I feel we should be supported by organisations that already exist and it should be the Government sending [an organisation like] MASI,” she said.

“We’re also raising money and people are so kind, but you can’t keep asking people for money when there should be systems in place.”


Several protests have been held in the area since the asylum seekers were housed in the old ESB building in mid-November. The East Wall Protest Committee – a different group which claims to represent locals – are now staging weekly protests, which involve blocking the Port Tunnel.

The group has claimed that the building is not fit for purpose and called on the Government to move those being housed there somewhere else. 

The make-up of groups attending and organising the protests has been the subject of intense speculation online and in the media.

Local councillor Nial Ring previously told The Journal that a group that first blocked the Dublin Port Tunnel on 28 November was made up of “99% residents”, and that smaller groups who attended previous protests didn’t “seem to be around” at that stage.

But although protests have been attended by locals whose political affiliations are unknown, demonstrations have also been supported and encouraged from an early stage by parties and non-local individuals associated with the far-right, including people who have travelled across the country to demonstrate.

Bedford said that the East Wall Here For All group respects the right to protest. “We’re not saying stop all protests, we’re saying let’s go about this the right way. If your issue is with how people are being treated in this community, or if your issue is with that specific facility, there’s valid forms of protest that can be done,” she said.

The group has tried to sit down with the protesters but they were not willing to speak to them, with Nic Liam saying the only way they would speak to them is if they were to attend one of the protests.

She said that the group has had people claim that those volunteering are not really from East Wall or that they have only been living there a certain amount of time. 

It doesn’t matter to me if you’re here five minutes or five generations of people, we all have to live together and get along.

“If people are genuinely concerned, I would love to know what their ideas are. I don’t think the centre is going to close, so if that doesn’t happen, is there a way to work together?”

Support welcome

The group have so far donated blankets and winter clothing like coats, hats and scarves to those living in the centre. They have also donated items for newborns and expectant mothers in the facility, such as baby clothes, nappies, bottles, blankets, formula milk and wet wipes.

Going forward, Bedford said the group wants to make a more long-term plan for the community. “Things like coffee mornings, language exchanges for people who want to learn English, helping people make CVs would be great,” she said.

O’Dea stressed that it’s important for the group to consult with people who have experience working with asylum seekers.

“We know we don’t have all the answers, and that’s why reaching out to MASI and some of these other agencies who are really experienced in this space is really important because if there’s people who know more than us, then yeah, we want to talk to them, and if there’s people with more experience and can add value, then brilliant.

“That could be volunteers, it could be private companies, elected representatives, advocacy groups. If people want to get involved, we welcome it with open arms.”