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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 1°C

FactCheck: Were refugees and asylum seekers segregated by race in a Dublin processing centre?

An activist Twitter account claims an “apartheid system” gives Ukrainians preferential treatment over asylum seekers from other countries.

For general Factchecks not about Covid (1)

A DUBLIN CENTRE segregated asylum seekers in an “apartheid system” based on skin colour with Ukrainian refugees given preferential treatment, according to a claim by an activist group. 

A tweet from the Abolish Direct Provision Campaign account on 22 May alleged the City West Hotel facility had “a type of Berlin Wall dividing Black Refugees (sleeping on floor/chairs) and Refugees from #Ukraine (sleeping on beds).” 

The group, which is self-described as a “voluntary group led by the victims of Direct Provision in Ireland”, called on Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, whose department has responsibility for Direct Provision, to resign. 

“It is unbelievable in 2022 that the color of your skin will give you a bed (€100) or the floor (€100) in City West Hotel Direct Provision Centre in Dublin,” said a tweet from the Abolish Direct Provision Twitter account on 21 May

Another tweet referred to an ‘apartheid wall’  separating areas with ‘beds for refugees from Ukraine while black and brown refugees [are] sleeping on the floor’ 

A photo of beds set up in the hotel’s convention centre claimed ‘this room here is only for Ukrainian Refugees with a pink mark.’

The ‘pink mark’ is in reference to wristbands given to those seeking asylum on arrival at the City West centre. 

Abolish Direct Provision claimed that different coloured wristbands determined access to beds and were assigned on the basis of race and nationality. They labelled it an “apartheid system”.

“The Black and Brown Refugees are tagged with a White Band and Refugees from Ukraine a pink band. If you are wearing a White Band then you are not entitled to a bed,” the group tweeted.

Screenshot 2022-05-27 at 13.32.26

The allegations were retweeted tens of times, with one Twitter user noting that it was “absolutely unbelievable the way Ireland is treating refugees …based purely on skin colour.”

The videos and images accompanying the tweets taken from City West show areas sectioned off by temporary walls, with people sleeping on chairs in part of the building. 

But is it true that nationality and race determined who got a bed and who didn’t? Were wristbands handed out in accordance with skin colour? Did temporary walls separate Ukrainian arrivals from other groups in the hotel convention centre?

 Let’s take a look at what we know. 

The Claim

Asylum seekers were segregated by nationality and race at the City West Convention Centre facility. Ukrainian arrivals were given different coloured wrist bands to other arrivals.

These wristbands determined access to beds. Arrivals from other countries were not given beds and could only sleep on chairs or the floor. 

The Evidence

In March 2022 it was announced that the Citywest Convention Centre would be used as an ‘overflow’ processing centre to take pressure off the processing centre at Dublin Airport, in anticipation of increasing numbers of Ukrainians seeking asylum. 

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth confirmed that the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) had ‘temporarily processed’ international protection applicants from countries other than Ukraine at the west Dublin venue. 

A spokesperson said this was due to a severe strain on available accommodation capacity.

The Department denied allegations that Ukrainian arrivals were given preferential treatment while non-Ukrainians were deprived of beds. This was verified by an independent volunteer at the centre. 

“International protection applicants are entitled to the same facilities at the Citywest Convention Centre as Ukrainian BOTPs, with families (both BOTPs and international protection applicants) receiving priority,” a spokesperson told The Journal

A BOTP refers to a Beneficiary of Temporary Protection.

An EU Temporary Protection Directive was activated at the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine “to provide immediate protection in EU countries for people displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine” according to the Department of Justice.

Ukraine nationals or nationals of another country living in Ukraine before 24 February are among those who can avail of Temporary Protection. Recipients are entitled to work, medical care, education and social welfare supports. 

International Protection applicants do not have the same entitlements while their application is processed, particularly when it comes to the type of accommodation and the rights to work. International Protection applicants are entitled to Direct Provision.

The Department said while parts of the City West convention centre are partitioned off, this is to divide “sleeping areas – partitioned rooms with beds to allow those at the centre to sleep – and a general seating area with tables and chairs.”

They denied allegations of racial segregation and the preferential treatment of Ukrainian arrivals. 

Tricia Nolan, a volunteer at the centre who was present the days the allegations were made, corroborated the Department’s statements that arrivals were not separated on the basis of nationality. 

“There are pods with beds but [during] the day everyone comes out and sits in the hall at tables they’ve been assigned to,” she told The Journal

Nolan provided a photo taken at the time of the interview of the same area seen in the tweet. The seated area was occupied mainly by Ukranian arrivals.  “As you can see – open corridor to sleeping area,” she said referring to space between the bed and seating area which remained unpartitioned. 

Both the Department and Nolan agree that there was a shortage of beds and that people did sleep on chairs in the week the initial tweet was sent, but they deny non-Ukrainians were denied beds on the basis of their nationality. 

According to Nolan, a large volume of people had arrived on buses, with a mixture of Ukrainian and other nationalities arriving from the airport between 1am and 3am on one particular morning. 

“It’s first-in-best-dressed and people who arrived late didn’t get a bed unfortunately and it was Ukraine nationals who happened to be sleeping on chairs too,” she said. 

The Department confirmed that ‘it was not always possible’ to give people beds on the day of their arrival.

A rest area with chairs is provided for those who remain in Citywest after the accommodation assignments have been allocated that day. 

A spokesperson admitted there was a ‘severe strain’ on accommodation and the ‘number of people requiring access to the overnight rest area exceeded the capacity of the centre.’ 

This is consistent with the photos supplied by the Abolish Direct Provision group of people appearing to sleep on chairs with supplied duvets.

However again the Department states “the beds in the rest area were available without distinction”.

According to the Department, since the surge in numbers in recent weeks, bed capacity is being increased and “everyone has a bed where required”.

The Department states that no IP applicants were awaiting accommodation at Citywest as of Friday 27 May and that people are transferred daily to accommodation when it becomes available. 

Nolan noted it was usually Ukrainian BOTPs who stayed at Citywest longer than other applicants particularly if they travelled with pets as it takes longer to find suitable accommodation. 

Wristbands are in use at the Citywest centre, as the activist group claimed, and different colours are distributed to groups. 

The Department told The Journal wristband colours can change daily to track the time and date of arrival. This is to accommodate people ‘in strict order of arrival’.

“It’s like a queue,” said Nolan

“We assign accommodation based on how long people have been there. We go along the hall looking for a particular colour. It’s the only fair way.”

The Department and Nolan confirmed that BOTP and IP applicants were given different coloured wristbands.

However this is because they are sent to different accommodation, depending on when it becomes available. 

“International Protection applicants have been designated a separate colour, to help volunteers and Department staff to quickly identify them when transport is arranged to their accommodation,” explained the spokesperson. 

Nolan confirmed the wristbands were used to find people when their accommodation was ready. 

“There’s no point grabbing an IP client for the wrong accommodation. When you have a room of hundreds of people, wristbands can be the quickest way of finding them,” she said. 

According to Nolan, a board in the hall shows the different coloured bands changing daily.

The Journal was shown a photo of the board with colours corresponding to arrival times.

Wristbands did not decide access to beds, according to both Nolan and the Department. 

The activist group had posted a photo on Facebook of white and pink bands with the caption “Direct Provision Apartheid System”.

The post claims white bands were given to “Black and Brown refugees (Sleep on Floor)” and “Pink Bands: Ukraine Refugees (Sleep on Beds)”

The letters IPO are written on both and on closer inspection the white band is actually a pink band turned inside out. 

This corroborates Nolan’s account of IP applicants initially being offered silver bands but the centre ran out. Volunteers then started using other bands that were left including pink and white, writing IPO (International Protection Office) on the bands to identify which accommodation process they were part of. 

As both of the bands have IPO written on them, Nolan said that they both belonged to IP applicants rather than one belonging to an Ukrainian BOTP. 


Different coloured wristbands were supplied to people on the basis of their protection status according to two sources on the ground at Citywest. It is true that Ukrainian nationals are the vast majority of BOTPs and those from other nations are IP applicants.

 However the claim that “The Black and Brown Refugees are tagged with a White Band and Refugees from Ukraine a pink band. If you are wearing a White Band then you are not entitled to a bed’’ is misleading. The bands change colour daily. There is no supporting evidence that band colour is used to determine bed allocation. There is a photo of a pink bank with ‘IPO’ written on it that is likely to have belonged to a non-Ukrainian arrival.

 The Abolish Direct Provision Campaign group were contacted but did not respond or provide further materials in support of their claims. 

We rate this claim: False 

The Journal’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You  can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.