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Tents used by migrants and other people experiencing homeless outside the IPO on Friday
Emergency Accommodation

Irish Refugee Council criticises decision to end emergency accommodation offered during cold spell

The CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said the decision is ‘frankly appalling’.

THE IRISH REFUGEE Council has said it is “frankly appalling” that the Department of Integration has ended arrangements that provided emergency accommodation to asylum seekers during last week’s cold spell.

Over 100 men have been sleeping rough in tents near to the International Protection Office (IPO) on Mount Street in Dublin 2.

Following advocacy, media reports and outcry on social media on Friday, the Department of Integration – which oversees accommodation for asylum seekers – said temporary emergency accommodation would be provided “due to the current extreme weather”.

However, in a statement yesterday, a Department spokesperson said these “arrangements are emergency in nature and will end today (Sunday).

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council (IRC), called for the “department to continue to accommodate people who were taken off the streets on Friday evening”.

“It’s frankly appalling, and we don’t use that word lightly, that people would be taken off the streets, accommodated and then put back out onto the streets either yesterday or this morning.”

Asked today about the presence of minors among those sleeping in tents, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “only aware of that from the media” and that he would meet with the minister to discuss it. 

“When it comes to providing accommodation for people seeking international protection, we prioritise children, families, and we’ll continue to do that,” Varadkar said. 

tents-some-flooded-and-collapsed-used-by-migrants-and-other-people-experiencing-homeless-outside-the-international-protection-office-during-a-period-of-snow-in-dublin-the-irish-weather-agency-met-e Tents used by migrants and other people experiencing homeless outside the IPO on Friday Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore said today that “we need to see action and that hasn’t happened today”.

She said she believes it is an unstated government policy to keep people on the streets as a deterrent to people considering seeking asylum in Ireland. 

With more than 1,100 people on the street and in tents, “it would appear to be Government policy to have them there”, she told RTÉ’s News at One.

She criticised O’Gorman for lacking a plan to deal with the problem.  

“The State’s treatment of vulnerable asylum seekers is shameful and inhumane”, she said in a statement, adding that “Ireland is a rich country. There is absolutely no justification for forcing people to sleep in sub-zero temperatures and unsafe conditions on the streets.

“This is especially true given we know that nearly 5,000 asylum and refugee beds are vacant – something the Government has yet to adequately explain.”

“That’s just unacceptable,” she told RTÉ. 

“That would appear to me to be either very, very bad management of what essentially the public purse is paying for, or I believe that actually it’s more indicative of a government unstated policy to keep men that they do not deem to be vulnerable enough on the streets to dissuade other people from applying for asylum in the country.”

The IRC’s Henderson said he wrote to Minister O’Gorman and senior officials yesterday evening to outline his concerns but hasn’t received a response as yet.

“We last night and again this morning asked the Department officials and the Minister to reconsider this decision and to continue to accommodate people.

“We used the word ‘disingenuous’,” said Henderson of the correspondence, “and we use that because it seems disingenuous that we cannot continue to accommodate people after having accommodated them for several nights.”

While Henderson said he acknowledges that the department “has to retain some accommodation for flex and capacity and surge”, but added that the situation is now at a “crisis” point.

“The situation at the International Protection Office, even before the snow on Friday, was terrible,” added Henderson.

“Many tents, lots of refuse, people not having access to toilets. It really is a situation of deep concern.

“People have to walk across the city and queue for showers. The tents, you can see with your own eyes that they’re in a terrible state.”

Henderson added that “we’re not in a normal situation” and called for “local authorities such as the Dublin Homeless Regional Executive to step up”.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive told RTÉ that it cannot take on responsibility for providing accommodation for asylum seekers, and that it provided 40 additional beds over the weekend for Irish people or people who are not asylum seekers who have been sleeping rough.

Includes reporting from Jane Matthews and David Mac Redmond