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Asylum seekers tents outside the International Protection Office on Mount Street, Dublin 2 Leah Farrell via
storm kathleen

Asylum seekers offered temporary shelter turned away after communication errors

Some rough sleepers won’t be able to avail of three nights of shelter from the storm.

SOME ASYLUM SEEKERS have been turned away from temporary shelter during Storm Kathleen, after the Department of Integration said it would accommodate rough sleepers for the weekend.

Patchy communication and a lack of organisation have meant that for people living in tents outside the International Protection Office (IPO) and elsewhere, plans to provide temporary shelter hasn’t been the relief they need.

When Met Éireann issued a Status Yellow wind warning for the whole country on Thursday, the Department set about providing alternative arrangements for those sleeping outside.

Those already on the government’s list of rough sleepers were given beds in Citywest Hotel and in army tents on the former site of the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum.

However, much of the responsibility to refer asylum seekers to the temporary accommodation has fallen to charities and volunteer workers.

One volunteer who spoke to The Journal said that she travelled to Dundrum at 1am on Saturday morning to pick up asylum seekers who had been turned away.

They had received an email confirming they were offered a bed, but claim they were told at the door that the list hadn’t been updated and security couldn’t let them in.

The volunteer drove them back to the city centre, where they’d been sleeping rough.

There was no public transport available in the middle of the night.

Mistakes like this, she said, meant that some people will only be able to avail of one or two nights of shelter, rather than the three promised.

First come, first served

The volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous to preserve her relationship with the IPO, also said that beds were given on a first come, first served basis, not prioritising vulnerable people such as those with health problems.

In an email sent to one international protection applicant, seen by The Journal, the Department listed the public transport routes to the accommodation.

However, the volunteer said that for many this isn’t an option due to a lack of funds and little understanding of how the Dublin transport system works. The language barrier adds to the difficulty.

Muslim asylum seekers are in the middle of Ramadan celebrations, which run until 9 April. The volunteer said that some people have not taken up the offer of accommodation in Dundrum or Citywest as they would prefer to be near their mosque, where they pray and eat with others after every night.

Other rough sleepers fear that if they go to the temporary shelter, their tent and belongings will be gone when they return to the city centre on Monday.

Last month, asylum seekers were accommodated temporarily during particularly cold weather, but then had to return to their tents on Mount Street, where conditions are worsening.

“I’m not saying that the people in the Department are not doing everything they can to find accommodation. I’m sure they are,” the volunteer said.

“We have an emergency on our hands where people don’t have access to sanitation or water at night, are sleeping in tents in different extreme weather.

Are we going to have to keep trying to register people and refer them, and then put them back out onto the streets?

In the last 24 hours, volunteers have referred dozens of people who were not on the Department’s list of rough sleepers. It’s understood that most of them have now been accommodated. 

The Department also asked volunteers to distribute information about the arrangements to those who are eligible but who do not have an email address. A number of organisations have phone numbers of asylum seekers and stay in touch with them regularly.

The volunteer who spoke to The Journal said she is being inundated with requests from individuals who wish to be referred.

The Department of Integration has been contacted for comment.