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The queue outside the Lighthouse on Tuesday evening, the day before Mount St was cleared, was constant until the centre closed at 10pm Allen Bobinac
The Lighthouse

Removal of Mount Street camp is 'like putting a plaster on a wound'

The Lighthouse in Dublin is providing food and other services for hundreds of asylum seekers every day.

THE REMOVAL OF a camp where close to 300 asylum seekers were sleeping on Mount Street and surrounding areas in Dublin city is akin to putting “a plaster over a wound”, the manager of a charity has said.

Allen Bobinac runs Tiglin at the Lighthouse, a homelessness charity in Dublin, which provides food, shelter and tents.

The Lighthouse has seen a huge increase in demand for its services in the last year or so. It served around 120,000 hot meals during 2023.

About two years ago, 200 people or fewer used the service every day. In recent months, some 500 people have been coming to the centre daily.

The vast majority of these people are male asylum seekers, many of whom were sleeping in tents on Mount Street, near the International Protection Office (IPO), until the camp was removed on Wednesday.

“Before the tents were cleared, it was around 500 people a day, and I would say 80% were asylum seekers,” Bobinac told The Journal.

“At times, you have a queue of 100 people trying to get in. As soon as someone’s finished with the food, they have to move on to let the next person in.”

Since the camp was dismantled, the number of people seeking help at the centre has decreased to around 250 people a day.

Close to 290 people who had been sleeping in the camp were offered alternative accommodation at facilities in Citywest and Crooksling.

However, a large number of other international protection (IP) applicants are still without accommodation – many of whom are sleeping rough in parks and other locations around Dublin.

Some 100 men who gathered at the IPO on Thursday were given letters saying no further accommodation was available

Commenting on the crisis, Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said it was “appalling” that volunteers were “scrambling to provide shelter for the men left stranded”.

1000008383 Close to 300 men were sleeping on Mount Street, Grattan Street and nearby lanes in recent weeks Órla Ryan / The Journal Órla Ryan / The Journal / The Journal

While the removal of the Mount Street camp has seen a decrease in the number of people seeking help at the Lighthouse, Bobinac believes this is only temporary.

“People are still entering the country, and they’re still sleeping on the street. The only difference is they can’t sleep at the IPO anymore. So I think the number will rise again in no time,” he told us.

He said that while it’s good the men were moved from Mount Street to more secure centres with better facilities, that was just scratching the surface. It was the most visible group of asylum seekers in the city, yes, but was still just one group.

“It was the first time in a while that the number of people they took off the street was significant. Before, it might have been five here, 10 there.

But what I’ve come to realise is the system is so overstretched. They took 285 people off the street, that was all they could handle. The problem isn’t solved, people are still coming. The numbers aren’t getting any lower.

“While we recognise that this is just a response, just as a plaster over a wound is temporary, so is this. We also recognise that we are all working together within a crisis, IPAS (International Protection Accommodation Services) and the NGOs.”

‘These people are human beings’

The Lighthouse has a constant stream of people passing through while it’s open, but is particularly busy in the evening. While many homelessness services close around 6pm, it remains open until 10pm.

People come in for food, to use the toilet, to charge their phone, socialise, or just be indoors.

“At six, seven o’clock, everyone’s coming here,” Bobinac explained.

“We provide tents and sleeping bags. We also provide clothes, toiletries, food. And then on top of that, we have our own initiatives – we have cinema nights, we have guest musicians, bingo.”

1000008719 Extensive fencing has been erected around the IPO to prevent more tents being pitched in the area Órla Ryan / The Journal Órla Ryan / The Journal / The Journal

Many of the asylum seekers who visit the centre don’t speak English, but employees and volunteers are fluent in a range of different languages. The Lighthouse, which relies on donations, has a small team of staff but largely relies on dozens of volunteers.

The Government has acknowledged it is struggling to house the numbers of IP applicants coming into the country, something which is further exacerbated by protests and arson attacks at some sites earmarked for this purpose.

Bobinac said more needs to be done to help accommodate asylum seekers, and more support should be given to charities who are filling the gap. However, he also recognises the Government is under pressure. 

“We’re here on the ground. It’s very, very busy. We’re trying to do our best.

At the end of it all, it’s really the homeless services and the charity sector that ends up dealing with all these issues.

Bobinac said the scale of the problem is “very big” and shows no signs of letting up any time soon.

“You might be living in a nice neighbourhood and you don’t see it. But, because of the numbers we’re experiencing, soon enough this will seep into every community.

“So I can’t say what the State is supposed to do, because I understand the pressure. This is a big, big problem.

“There is a crisis – and I don’t use that word lightly – and we need a crisis response. We also need to remember that these are human beings, sometimes that can be forgotten when we talk about numbers.”

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