Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Demands for action as Grand Canal ‘tent city’ emerges just days after nearby camp outside International Protection Office shuts

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New tents spring up despite pledges from the Government that this would not be allowed to happen

Just days after a makeshift camp was cleared from nearby Mount Street, there are now up to 70 tents housing asylum-seekers and migrants on both sides of the canal in Dublin city centre.

The new camp has emerged despite assurances from the Taoiseach and Government that these camps would not be allowed to develop.

Taoiseach Simon Harris said last week that “makeshift encampments” on public roads and footpaths were illegal as he defended the Government’s handling of the accommodation crisis.

The camp outside the International Protection Office on Mount Street made international headlines last week as the Government got into a war of words with the UK government over immigration.

Tents set up on the banks of the Grand Canal in Dublin by men seeking international protection Photo: Gerry Mooney

When asked by the Irish ­Independent yesterday what the response to the growing camp on the Grand Canal will be, a spokesperson said the Government was making “every effort to accommodate asylum-seekers in Ireland against a backdrop of unprecedented demand”.

The statement added: “However, the situation remains challenging and the Department [of Integration] cannot provide accommodation to all applicants.

“Significant resources have been put into the International Protection Office, including a substantial staff increase, a key lever [in accelerating] processing which has been proven to work. [This will ensure] those who qualify for protection get it within 90 days and those who do not qualify get a quicker decision and instruction to leave”.

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A statement from An Garda Síochána said it would continue to work with all government departments, statutory agencies, local communities and international protection applicants/rough sleepers to support and maintain safety for all.

However, a group representing residents and local businesses have said the new camp began to form within days of the operation to clear tents from Mount Street, despite a commitment that there would be no large encampments allowed in the city.

“We would like the Government to honour that commitment. There has been a lot of buck-passing, and we would have hoped they would do a better job of preventing a new camp.

“We are concerned that that has not happened, and clearly there is political leadership needed,” said Kevin Byrne of the network representing residents and businesses.

“It is still our belief that the International Protection Office should be moved to an area where wraparound services for asylum-seekers can be provided.”

Fianna Fáil TD James O’Connor has said the Government must be stronger in dealing with makeshift encampments of homeless asylum-seekers.

He also called for gardaí to be deployed to checkpoints on the Border to deal with a reported increase in migrants entering from Northern Ireland.

Mr O’Connor raised concerns that another camp had sprung up so quickly, saying Ireland was increasingly being seen as a “soft touch” on migration.

“What’s happening on the Grand Canal, and in Mount Street indeed, it’s completely unacceptable to me as a government TD and I think the Government needs to be stronger in dealing with this,” the Cork East TD told RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme.

He added that he thinks there is a need for larger accommodation centres in places like Dublin Airport and in the border area.“I would be quite forthright that we do need to see a further rapid expansion of border policing around migration.

“This is something I feel is not being done sufficiently.

“And I do feel we need to take the bull by the horns and address it because we have to look after people that come here, but we do need to acknowledge that there is a tipping point where we can’t do that any more.”

Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said he fears for the safety of people forced to live in the tents.

He also said the current strategy of moving asylum-seekers to sites outside the city centre isn’t working.

He told the Irish Independent: “We’re just firefighting all the time, and I do fear for the safety of these men. It is well known that these camps are not sustainable, yet when efforts are made to find accommodation in an area, you get local people objecting and people whipping up fear.

“All we’re doing is moving the problem from one area to another.”

Tenants in local Dublin City Council sheltered housing yesterday called for collaboration at government level on the issue.

“Our primary concern is ensuring the wellbeing of both the residents and the refugees. We kindly request information on any government initiatives or support programmes to address the current situation,” they said in a statement.

The new camp near Mount Street Bridge has grown significantly in size over the bank holiday weekend.

Speaking at the camp yesterday, men in the camp told the Irish Independent they prefer to stay together in one place because they feel safer.

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