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Confusion over asylum accommodation offer during storm

Rough sleeping asylum seekers remain in tents on streets around the International Protection Office in Dublin 2 this afternoon, amid ongoing confusion around the Department of Integration’s offer of temporary accommodation during Storm Kathleen.

RTÉ News spoke to two International Protection Applicants who were turned away from a temporary accommodation site in Dundrum in Dublin last night after being told their names were not on the list, despite having received emails offering them temporary accommodation at the site.

A number of International Protection Applicants who are rough sleeping in tents around Mount Street also failed to receive any email offering them temporary protection for the weekend.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for the Department of Integration said that: “In response to reports of Storm Kathleen and potential extreme weather in Ireland over the weekend, IPAS (the International Protection Accommodation Service) is providing an offer of temporary shelter for persons who are actively rough sleeping.”

Over the last three weeks a further 312 men who have sought International Protection in Ireland were not offered any State provided shelter

However, only those whose names are on a priority accommodation list are being emailed offers of temporary accommodation.

Homeless asylum seekers can get their names on this list by being referred by homeless services, gardaí and other support services, however RTÉ News spoke to a number of those sleeping rough who did not know anything about this process.

Before yesterday, many of the volunteers helping them were also not aware of the process.

“We had a lot of people telling us that they didn’t know what to do… so we contacted the International Protection Accommodation Service on their behalf to try and clarify the situation,” local volunteer Olivia Headon said.

“They told us that people could be referred and they thought that they had captured the full population of rough sleepers, they weren’t aware that people were missing off the list,” Ms Headon said.

Yesterday evening, volunteers collected a list of 23 rough sleeping asylum seekers living in the tents who were not on the list and referred them to them to an IPAS official, and this morning temporary accommodation was offered to all 23 at Citywest for the weekend.

Olivia Headon said many IP applicants did not know what to do

“However I did tell them that there are more people that we haven’t been able to get the names of, so I’m actually back here at the IPO trying to collect those names, but there are people who don’t speak English, there are people who don’t have email addresses or Irish phone numbers, or any phone number or any phone, so we’re trying to figure out how to tell them if they do get an accommodation offer,” Ms Headon said.

“We didn’t sleep last night because of the wind,” said ‘Sammi’, not his real name, “you can see here our tents, the wind is too much.”

Sammi also translated for his two friends who do not speak English.

“After 11.30 at night they got emails (offering them temporary accommodation in Dundrum) but when they went to that centre the security told them you are not allowed because your names are not on the list,” Sammi said.

Volunteers confirmed to RTÉ News that they organised transport to bring the men back to the IPO as it was too late for them to avail of public transport and they could not afford a taxi.

RTÉ News asked the Department of Integration about this incident and if the problem had been resolved, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

Sammi has been offered temporary accommodation for the weekend, but he said that two more of his friends who are staying in the tents had not received any offer yet.

“We hope they will get their names on the list today and we can go in there,” Sammi said.

The alternative accommodation is only being offered for the weekend amid Status Yellow wind warnings and “potential extreme weather ” conditions, the Department of Integration said.

It is the third time an informal settlement of unaccommodated asylum seekers has built up around the IPO

Two other International Protection Applicants who share a tent near the IPO told RTÉ News that they would accept alternative accommodation “for one night, two nights, even for half an hour.”

However, another man said that he did not want to leave for something temporary.

“We need a solution for a long time… not a temporary solution,” he said.

Ms Headon described it as “very strange … that there is accommodation that can come on line in an emergency, so why can’t people be accommodated when there isn’t a storm? This is already an emergency.”

At the tents we also met the co-founder of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) who was visiting the men living there.

“The situation is getting worse and worse,” Lucky Khambule said.

“They (the Government) seem to act where there is a crisis like they did when there was the snow and now with the storm… in fact there is a crisis on a day to day basis,” Mr Khambule said.

Local resident Maeve Heaney said residents were “concerned that asylum seekers live in tents, it is an unlivable situation” and were also “completely appauled and astonished that the authorities are doing nothing and are not communicating with us.”

“We want a permanent solution,” Ms Heaney said.

“If they can move them for a two-day storm then they can move to places that are more dignified,” Ms Heaney said.

This is the third time an informal settlement of unaccommodated asylum seekers has built up around the International Protection Office off Mount Street.

It happened last Spring when the State ceased offering accommodation to all adult asylum seekers citing an accommodation shortage, and on two occasions since the Government ceased offering all male asylum seekers accommodation on 4 December amid what it has described as another “severe” shortage of available accommodation.

The site around Mount Street was cleared three weeks ago, and those living there were moved to Crooksling in Co Dublin.

Since then, a further 312 men sought International Protection in Ireland and were not offered any State provided shelter, and the total number without reached 1,620 yesterday.

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