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More than 100 tents were removed from along the Grand Canal in Dublin today © RollingNews.ie
Asylum Seekers

It's a 'criminal offence' to pitch tents on public land, govt says, after removing Grand Canal camp

However, gardaí are “taking a humane approach” as many asylum seekers have nowhere else to go.

LAST UPDATE | 9 May

THE GOVERNMENT HAS said it is a criminal offence for a person to pitch a tent on public land, or on private land without consent, following the removal of more than 100 tents from the banks of the Grand Canal in Dublin today.

Asylum seekers had pitched tents along the canal in recent days following the removal of almost 300 tents from outside the International Protection Office (IPO) on Mount Street and surrounding areas last week.

Around 290 male asylum seekers were offered alternative accommodation at International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) centres in Citywest and Crooksling after the Mount Street camp was dismantled.

A further 163 individuals were relocated from the canal today to facilities in Crooksling (148 people) and Dundrum (15 people).

Fences have been erected on Mount Street, Grattan Street and along part of the Grand Canal in a bid to prevent more tents being pitched. However, a number of tents were pitched today in areas such as East Wall and Ringsend.

Around 1,700 international protection (IP) applicants remain without State accommodation and many of them are sleeping rough in various locations across Dublin.

More asylum seekers are arriving on a daily basis, and the Government has acknowledged it is struggling to house people.

‘You are committing an offence’

When the camps along the Grand Canal and outside the IPO were removed today and last week respectively, people sleeping there were given letters saying they would be committing an offence if they remained in the area.

The letter handed out to IP applicants today stated: “You do not have permission to stay on canal property beside the Grand Canal in Dublin. You are committing an offence.

“If you refuse to come to the available accommodation or you later return to stay in this area you may be moved on by An Garda Síochána (Police) and you may be arrested and prosecuted.”

The letter was written in English, French and Arabic. A letter given to men at the Mount Street camp last week contained similar references to committing an offence and possibly being arrested if they returned to the area.

‘A humane approach’

Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman was asked about the issue at a Green Party press conference earlier today. He said the letters referred to “a range of offences” under “public realm legislation”.

During an interview on RTÉ Radio 1′s News at One, O’Gorman was asked to elaborate. To which he replied:

There are criminal sanctions attached to some elements of pitching tents on public spaces.

He added that gardaí have been “taking a humane approach to this, recognising that people had no alternatives”.

A number of NGOs and charities have been giving tents and sleeping bags to asylum seekers who have no accommodation.

Grand Canal cleared-2_90704993 Barriers have been erected along part of the Grand Canal in a bid to prevent more people pitching tents © RollingNews.ie © RollingNews.ie

The Journal has tried to clarify which exact offences are being referred to in the letters given to IP applicants. When contacted about the issue, the Garda Press Office said it was a matter for the Government.

When The Journal asked the Government Press Office which particular offences and legislation were being referred to, a spokesperson confirmed it is not a criminal offence to refuse State accommodation but said there is an issue with pitching tents in certain locations. 

They said that while the State takes “a sympathetic approach” towards IP applicants, “it is nevertheless a criminal offence, in principle, for a person to pitch a tent on public land, or on private land without consent”.

“Depending on the circumstances, for example, the person may be moved on, requested to remove their tent or the tent may be seized if there is a refusal to remove the tent.”

The statement added that each case will be considered on its “own set of facts in terms of the legal implications arising”.

‘The use of tents should not be encouraged’

Speaking to RTÉ News this evening, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said that tents are “not safe” and their use should not be supported or encouraged “in any way”.

Shortly after the State ran out of accommodation for people seeking international protection last December, the Department of Integration recommended that those seeking protection who were not offered accommodation could avail of tents from day services and charities.

The State stopped providing tents to those seeking international protection after a number of weeks, but charities and support groups have continued to provide them on request.

Speaking after the removal of the site in at the Grand Canal this evening, Martin told the SixOne news programme: “We will remove tents as they are put up. Secondly, we have to provide additional sites for proper tented accommodation. They’ll be state-owned sites.”

The Tánaiste said that the accommodation strategy will help the Government to speed up the delivery of more and appropriate accommodation sites. 

He added that there was a need for the Department of Integration to process applications quicker, which would reduce the number of people who have applied for protection and who remain in the State while they wait for the results of their application.

With reporting by Emma Hickey and Muiris O’Cearbhaill

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