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Concern over homeless asylum seekers during cold weather

The Irish Refugee Council has said there is “real concern” over international protection applicants staying in tents in Dublin city centre during the cold weather conditions.

Dozens of asylum seekers are sleeping in tents around the International Protection Office on Mount Street.

Heavy snow fell over parts of the city and a Status Yellow snow and ice warning is in place for Dublin and other counties.

The Irish Refugee Council’s CEO Nick Henderson visited those staying in the tents and said: “The snow that had fallen was causing many of the tents to collapse.”

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, he said the IRC already had concerns about the people in the tents but “seeing the conditions there this morning only heightened our concern”.

Mr Henderson said that Department of Integration officials will visit the site and collect names to take people to emergency accommodation over the weekend.

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He said that those who are homeless will generally move around the city to try to take cover or sleep in overnight cafés.

Mr Henderson said that others have been travelling outside of Dublin as they did not feel the city centre was safe.

He said that most likely there would be more than one person in a tent and called for items like thermal blankets, portaloos and better-quality tents to improve the situation.

Mr Henderson said that the number of homeless asylum seekers was increasing.

“We don’t believe that the Government’s current response is in any way adequate either to deal with the issues arising day to day, but also trying to resolve and end this situation,” he said.

Mr Henderson added: “People who are in this situation don’t have automatic access to emergency homeless services.

“We have written to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and councils in the area asking, regardless of the cold weather and snow, what supports will be put in place to support the situation around the Mount Street area”.

Dublin Region Homeless Executive said that its extreme weather protocol is currently in place

A total of 1,103 international protection applicants are without an offer of State-accommodation, according to the latest official figures.

In total, 1,571 eligible male international protection applicants have presented since 4 December last year.

According to the figures, 185 people were offered accommodation after an availability and vulnerability triage.

In a statement, the Department of Integration said it is “experiencing increasing numbers of international protection applicants requiring accommodation with all efforts being made to ensure sufficient capacity is maintained for arriving families including those with children”.

It said: “The Department is in regular contact with the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, the Dublin Simon Community, Streetlink Homeless Support Outreach service and others on this issue, particularly with regard identification of particularly vulnerable individuals.

“These organisations are provided with the Department’s duty phone, which is monitored 24/7, which they can use to identify said individuals. Prioritisation is given to the most vulnerable individuals.

“Given the cold weather, this system is crucial to the Department’s response and has been working very effectively thus far, resulting in a number of people receiving offers of accommodation.”

In a statement, Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) said that its extreme weather protocol is currently in place which sets out the coordinated response activated during extreme weather conditions or adverse events.

It said that bed capacity has been increased by 330 permanent beds by the end of last year and 40 extreme weather beds are also available which can be used on an as needed basis.

DRHE said that it encourages anyone requiring emergency accommodation to contact their local authority or the freephone service.

It said that the Dublin Region Outreach Service is working directly with rough sleepers from 7am to 1am daily and assists any individuals they meet to take up emergency accommodation.

DRHE is also asking the public for their assistance during this time to let it know if they come across someone sleeping rough on their website, call 01 872 0185 or use its free app Dublin City Rough Sleeper Alerts, available on both Apple and Android platforms.

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