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NGOs asked by justice department to help asylum seekers in emergency accommodation 'as soon as possible'

There are now 777 people living in emergency set-ups in 25 counties around Ireland.

Department of Justice & Equality
Department of Justice & Equality
Image: RollingNews.ie

NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS are being asked to assist asylum seekers living in hotels and B&Bs around Ireland. 

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Justice & Equality, it now requires a “Cultural Liaison Service” to help people living in emergency accommodation and has issued a tender for NGO services. It says it needs this service in place “as soon as possible”. 

The department’s Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is currently under pressure, according to a department spokesperson. 

As a result, RIA requires the chosen NGO to hold clinics at hotels and B&Bs, provide assistance with obtaining medical cards as well as bringing individual cases of concern to the attention of RIA. 

According to the department spokesperson: “RIA is in the process of contracting in a Cultural Liaison Service and we will be able to comment further when that process is complete.”

Since September, RIA has accommodated people in hotels and B&Bs due to capacity issues in Direct Provision centres. 

There are now 777 people living in emergency set-ups in 25 counties around Ireland. The department has paid nearly €7 million to private business owners running hotels and B&Bs in that time. 

“As our accommodation centres are currently operating at full capacity, the Department put out a nation-wide call seeking bed and board in hotels and guesthouses on a 12-26 week basis for emergency temporary accommodation for international protection applications,” a spokesperson for the department told TheJournal.ie.

People living in these centres have experienced a lack of service provision and have raised these issues with RIA. 

According to a spokesperson for the Ombudsman’s Office – which is charged with examining complaints from people about public bodies and has visited Direct Provision centres since 2017 – “people in emergency accommodation tell us that they are experiencing difficulty accessing public services.”

‘Address residents concerns’

A number of issues highlighted by residents so far include difficulties accessing GP services, delays in PPS numbers being allocated in order to receive their weekly payment, a lack of educational access for children and unsuitable accommodation. 

MASI (Movement for Asylum Seekers in Ireland) has received a number of queries and complaints from people living in these emergency set-ups.

In June, a number of people living at a hotel in Co Cavan complained to RIA about the type of food being served at the hotel and of having no access to GP services. 

They complained that some residents have had no access to medical cards for more than eight months and that local GP practices wouldn’t accept them as patients without medical cards. 

Some residents have also been living at the centre for over nine months despite others being transferred from emergency accommodation to more permanent Direct Provision centres. 

The NGO chosen to provide this cultural liaison service, according to the department, will support RIA “in order to address the concerns and issues of residents in emergency accommodation.”

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