Tuesday, May 28, 2024

No accommodation available for 1,676 male asylum seekers

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There are now 1,676 male asylum seekers without an offer of State accommodation, according to the latest figures from the Department of Integration.

The figures come as a number of asylum seekers spent Thursday night in tents at a church park in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Around 17 tents were pitched on Thursday night with permission at St Mary’s Church on St Mary’s Road.

On Thursday, a large number of men were turned away from the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) office on Mount Street in Dublin.

The Department figures confirm that 284 previously unaccommodated asylum seekers were offered accommodation this week, when those sleeping rough around Mount Street were transported to Crooksling and Citywest in Dublin on Wednesday morning.

However, yesterday’s figures show a further 127 new male asylum seekers presented at IPAS this week.

Following a vulnerability triage, six of these individuals were offered accommodation while 121 were not offered any accommodation by the State.

Unaccommodated new arrivals, along with all male asylum seekers who have not been offered accommodation since 4 December last year, are provided with the details of homeless day services but they cannot access homeless emergency beds.

They can access tents, but the area in Mount Street where many had camped in the past remains sealed off.

They can also apply for an increased daily expense allowance of €75 per week, bringing the total weekly amount they are entitled to while without State provided shelter from €38.80 per week to €113.80 a week.

Mount Street was cleared of tents earlier this week

The Taoiseach Simon Harris said the tents pitched in St Mary’s were a “temporary thing being done by people, who I think, were being very humane in terms of trying to provide assistance on property that wasn’t public”.

Speaking during an official visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Harris said: “We work at this every single day, but I do need to be clear and we need to be honest with people coming to our country.

“We’re doing our very best in a very difficult and challenging circumstance to provide accommodation, but accommodation isn’t always readily available.”

However, Mr Harris said the conversation about migration “can’t just be one about accommodation”.

“It also has to be a conversation about faster processing times, [about] better, more efficient and effective systems,” he said.

“So we have to come at this from a variety of standpoints,” he added.

The Taoiseach said that “it’s important to agree at the outset that makeshift encampments on public roads and footpaths are never the solution and aren’t illegal either”.

Mr Harris said that laws need to be upheld.

He said: “We did provide 290 people from Mount Street and those who appeared on Mount Street that day, with accommodation.”

The Taoiseach said these individuals were given “shelter, with access to sanitation, with food, with a much better scenario than had been allowed to develop on Mount Street”.

Mr Harris said he was “very, very comfortable with the position” taken, adding that it was necessary.

However, Mr Harris said “people did turn up at the International Protection Office yesterday and there wasn’t accommodation for all people”.

He said that IPAS had taken the contact details of the individuals and “it is working to try and provide accommodation solutions”.

I still have no accommodation, says asylum seeker

One asylum seeker, who spoke to RTÉ News, said he was forced to sleep in a church.

The man, who is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, arrived here over a month ago but he said he “still has no accommodation at the moment”.

He said after he applied for International Protection, he was put on a waiting list for a place to stay.

In the meantime, the man said he had been originally sleeping in tents but he said it has been hard to sleep outside recently, so he has been staying in a church at night.

Another International Protection applicant, who was outside the Mount Street offices, said he slept on a street in Dublin city centre.

The man, who is originally from Sudan, arrived in Ireland on Thursday after travelling from Scotland to Dublin via Wales.

He said he had no accommodation, so he “slept on the street”.

Govt seems to not have a plan – MSAI

Lucky Khambule, co-founder of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MSAI), described the situation as “serious”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s 6:1 programme, he said: “People are living with friends, people are living in tents, people are living under the bridges, and under serious conditions.”

He said the MSAI understands the rationale for moving the tented encampment off Lower Mount Street but it expected the Government to have a plan for new people that will come, because “they will always come,” he said.

“But they seem not to have a plan to accommodate people,” he said.

He said there are “loads of buildings that are free in this country, even in this town [Dublin]”.

“They [the Government] need to be robust in terms of their procurement to get those buildings on site,” he added.

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Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Mendicity homeless charity said that while the tent encampment at Mount Street “may have been the most photographed and visible” it was not the only one of its kind.

Louisa Santoro said that there are still hundreds of arrivals that have not been offered accommodation.

Ms Santoro said a “sort of community” had developed among those living at Mount Street and that people generally feel more comfortable in larger numbers.

She said they want their applications dealt with “as quickly as possible” and would like to work but are unable to do so.

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She told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: “There are certainly conversations about certain countries being dealt with in a more speedy or prompt fashion.

“Obviously the knock-on effect of that is that if you’re going to deal with some applications from certain countries quicker, there’s going to be a delay for other countries.”

Ms Santoro said she had “absolutely” noticed an increase in the number of people saying they had arrived via Northern Ireland.

She said that of the more than 1,000 people that had come to them for help since December, 900 were International Protection Applicants and “at least 15 or 20%” of those had said they had come through the UK.

She said that for many, returning home was not an option because their home was gone.

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said it is appalling that asylum seekers were again without accommodation on Thursday night, adding that their predicament arose from a clear failure of Government policy.

She accused the coalition of having no coherent plan in place.

In a post on X, she said: “This is appalling – a clear failure of Gov policy – still no coherent accommodation plan in place.”

Call for ‘calm’ in row with UK – Harris

Mr Harris said there was a “need for a sense of calm” following a diplomatic row with the UK over immigration.

Tensions have increased in recent days after Minister for Justice Helen McEntee claimed there had been an upsurge in asylum seekers crossing the border on the island of Ireland following the passing of the UK’s Safety of Rwanda Act.

Speaking in Belfast, Mr Harris said: “After the week that has been there is a need for a sense of calm here, there is need for a bit of a deep breath.

“We have a common travel area between the two islands, that is a common travel area that is in place for a very long time when both countries were in the European Union and it is still in place now when one country is within the European Union and one isn’t.

“I am determined to work as Taoiseach constructively to make sure that the common travel area is protected, the common travel area is never abused.

“There is a range of measures we need to take on an Irish level in terms of improving our migration systems.”

Additional reporting Laura Fletcher

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