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Former nursing home to house up to 220 asylum seekers

A former nursing home in Ballsbridge, Dublin is to start accommodating asylum seekers, with plans to house up to 220 people.

St Mary’s Home on Pembroke Park had been vacant for a number of years.

It will now be used by the Department of Integration for international protection applicants.

It is understood that around 40 families will be accommodated.

Gardaí are conducting patrols of the building in Ballsbridge due to recent suspected arson attacks at premises earmarked for asylum seeker accommodation.

A spokesperson for the Department of Integration said: “A vacant former nursing home in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 will reopen in the coming days as a 220-bed emergency accommodation facility for families who are seeking international protection”.

The department is “currently providing over 26,100 people seeking international protection with State-sourced accommodation and support services,” the spokesperson added.

“In addition to that, since February 2022, we are also providing accommodation to 74,000 people who have fled the war in Ukraine, resulting in over 100,000 people in State-provided or pledged accommodation in Ireland, and that number continues to increase.”

The building operated as a nursing home until 2020

Labour Dublin City Councillor Dermot Lacey organised an information meeting with locals last night, which he described as “extraordinarily positive overall”.

He said one question he would seek further clarification on was whether the building had the correct fire safety status, a question he felt was legitimate and fair.

“220 people is a lot in one building – neighbours want to be sure that fire certification is above board,” he said.

Cllr Lacey said he was going to set up a D4 welcome group, and that over 20 people had already offered immediate help.

He also praised the Department of Integration for its communications, having earlier been critical of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE).

Cllr Lacey received a written apology from the DRHE after it said it had communicated its plans over the former Shipwright pub in Ringsend to local representatives.

Mr Lacey had not been told the vacant pub was to be used as emergency accommodation for homeless families.

He also disagreed with Minister Simon Harris’ comments yesterday that better communications from DRHE would not have averted a fire.

Mr Lacey said: “In my view a mistake was made, but in general I’m very supportive of what they [DRHE] do”.

He said the false rumours about the use of the pub for asylum seekers were already out there and there was an obligation to counteract them.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik chaired the meeting between public representatives and residents

Last night’s meeting was chaired by Labour leader Ivana Bacik who said the majority of residents in attendance were “hugely supportive and positive”.

Speaking on RTE’s Today with Clare Byrne, she said: “We cannot get into a position where any community has a veto on who moves in or out, and that is sometimes what is meant when people say consultation, so we were very clear what we wanted to do was inform local residents.”

Ms Bacik also condemned the fire that broke out on New Year’s Eve at the former pub in Ringsend.

“Arson is one of the most serious crimes in our criminal law code it carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and I have called on anyone with any information on any of the fires that were started deliberately in recent times to come forward to gardaí.”

She added that the attack was not representative of the local community.

Green Party Councillor Hazel Chu, who was involved in last night’s meeting, said it was “very positive and balanced”.

She said the building operated as a nursing home up to 2020 and 40 rooms would be opened to house asylum-seeking families, with all having their own room door lock, as well as shower facilities.

Ms Chu added that residents would also have catering services, integration officers and education officers to work with children in relation to school places.

Former Lord Mayor of Dublin, Green Party Councillor Hazel Chu

She told the same programme that public representatives received confirmation of the plan this week.

“Representatives have worked cross party on the issue, anyone with questions was happy to have engagement,” she said.

Cllr Chu added that communities have no right to a veto, but public representatives need to show leadership and make sure communities are communicated with.

Concerns expressed by residents, such as a lack of GP places, would be put to the Department of Integration through the community engagement team, she said.

Gardaí are conducting patrols of the building in Ballsbridge

A total of 457 International Protection Applicants (IPAs) are homeless, according to the latest figures from the Department of Integration.

Since 4 December, when the State said it could no longer provide accommodation to new arrivals, 593 eligible male IPAs have arrived in the country.

Figures published today show that accommodation was offered to 70 people after an availability and vulnerability triage.

Some 523 people received a contingency payment in lieu of accommodation, while 66 were subsequently offered accommodation.

But 457 applicants are still awaiting an accommodation offer.

This is the second time in 12 months that the State has been unable to provide accommodation to all those seeking international protection amid a “severe shortage”, but the numbers are climbing much faster this time around.

The last time the State ceased offering accommodation to all newly-presenting IPAs – on 24 January 2023 – the number without a place one month later was less than half today’s figure, standing at 208.

It was another month before it passed 400, reaching 408 on 27 March 2023.

The number of IPAs without any offer of State-provided accommodation also climbed significantly this week, increasing by more than 80 since Tuesday, when figures were last published by the department.

In total, 593 new male asylum seekers have presented since 4 December.

Some 136 have been offered a place since then – 70 after what the department described as “an availability and vulnerability triage” and 66 when a place became available.

When the number of unaccommodated IPAs passed 400 on 27 March 2023, the total number of those eligible but not initially offered accomodation since 24 January 2023 was 730.

The total number offered a place in the intervening period was 322.

Additional reporting Helen Donohue, Laura Fletcher

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