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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
PA Images Protesters walk past tents of homeless people outside the International Protection Office in Dublin

Four unaccompanied minors among 1,400 refugees forced to sleep rough, report shows

A report by the Irish Refugee Council examined the impact of homelessness on already vulnerable asylum seekers arriving in Ireland.

ALMOST 1,400 international protection applicants have been forced into homelessness this year due to a lack of state accommodation, including four unaccompanied minors, the Irish Refugee Council has highlighted.

Some of the refugees arriving in Ireland have found themselves without a place to stay for up to 10 weeks, according to a report by the council.

The study outlined the impact of homelessness on already vulnerable asylum seekers arriving in Ireland, as well as associated health and safety risks.

The report, titled Now I Live On The Road, is based on interviews with international protection applicants and testimonies from frontline service providers such as GPs and charity sector staff.

The Government has said it is dealing with a refugee crisis of unprecedented scale, having seen almost 100,000 people arrive in Ireland within 12 months.

Ministers have emphasised the challenges associated with finding accommodation for so many people. They have secured further bed spaces in recent weeks in a bid to reduce the number of international protection applicants without somewhere to stay.

At the height of the problem this year, 593 people seeking protection were experiencing homelessness, the council said.

It said 56 couples and seven single women have been forced to sleep rough.

The council expressed “deep concern” at the cases of four unaccompanied children who it said had been forced to rough sleep for as long as six weeks, after being assessed as ineligible for state childcare services, due to uncertainty over their age and whether they were children.

Of the four children, the council said, two have since been taken into Tusla care having ages confirmed to be children and the other two have received evidence of their age and are awaiting re-assessments while currently living in adult accommodation.

The council said it had also supported three pregnant women who experienced homelessness and dozens of people with serious physical and mental health conditions.

It said 450 refugees had contacted the council for support and, of those, almost 40% self-reported a physical or mental health concern.

The council said the oldest person who presented to it as rough sleeping was 62 and the youngest was 17.

Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council said: “The findings of this report show not only a loss of dignity, but destitution among those who have been forced into homelessness.

“We acknowledge the work being done by the Department of Children and civil servants, but this situation is a new low in the history of refugee protection in this country and represents a breakdown of Ireland’s protection and reception system.

“We call on all of government to fulfil its duties to provide reception conditions.

“Unless this occurs, for the foreseeable future, a single male protection applicant who arrives in Ireland is likely to face a period of homelessness.

“We are extremely concerned that safeguards have not been put in place to identify vulnerable people, including unaccompanied children, pregnant women and people with serious mental and physical health concerns.”

The report says it is imperative that, at a minimum, homelessness among people seeking protection ceases and does not reoccur.

It calls for measures to be taken to alleviate destitution if people remain homeless and makes short, medium, and long-term recommendations to address the accommodation crisis.

Recommendations include a call for an “all-of-government response” to the crisis and greater inter-departmental cooperation and communication; a full social welfare allowance to alleviate destitution until reception conditions can be met; applicants to be given the option of pausing their protection application until they are provided with accommodation; the provision of a point of contact for applicants to ensure proactive communication with relevant NGOs; and legal requirement for people seeking protection to be assessed for vulnerabilities.

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