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Male asylum seekers face long wait for accommodation

A lack of basic hygiene facilities are among the main concerns of the dozens of asylum seekers living in a tented community, which has sprung up outside the International Protection Office in Dublin.

The Department of Integration stopped offering accommodation to all asylum seekers on 4 December amid a “nationwide shortage”.

Latest figures, where were published yesterday, show that since then 1,382 male International Protection applicants have come to Ireland and of those, 970 have not been offered any accommodation.

As a result, there are now more than 40 tents outside the International Protection Office on Mount Street.

Some people have been there for more than a month, waiting for accommodation to be offered to them.

The men who are regularly bedding down there spoke about the challenges they face.

Chief among them is the weather, verbal abuse and the lack of a place to wash or access toilet facilities. As a result, there is a smell of urine around the area.

Scores of tents lines the street outside the International Protection Office on Mount Street in Dublin

One Afghan national said: “I’ve been here around 30 days. Some people are here for 45 days and more than that and since then we are lying on the roads. It’s raining, you can see, all the time in Ireland.

“Also sometimes people come and literally abuse you verbally. Also someone stole my purse as well. I had some important cards, my documents, as well as a little bit of pocket money.”

He is thankful for the charities that call with food and hot drinks, such as the Mustard Seed Soup Run van, but remains wary of those who may wish to cause them harm.

“There are very good people around here. They feed us, just like you can see there is a truck. They’re distributing food, tents and stuff like that. But there are a few people, which are in every single country and we kind of fear them, the kind of right wing in every country.”

Lack of facilities

While there are shower facilities at three drop-in-centres – at Mendicity, Capuchin and Merchant’s Quay – some asylum seekers said they went a number of days, some more than a week, without a shower due to the demand for the service.

A bigger problem for people is the lack of any toilet facilities in the makeshift camp.

An Indian man said: “I go to the washroom there in the mall and some cafes. But the cafe will say that they’re only for the customers.”

Tents on Mount Street where IP applicants are staying

A recent arrival from Nigeria was cleaning up rubbish around the tents.

“I’m actually doing that to keep good hygiene because it’s where we urinate and I sleep there. At night, you know, the smell spreads around and, you know, makes us uncomfortable. So I’m doing it not just for me, for everyone. I can’t live in a dirty environment,” he said.

The man said those in the tent camp would like hygiene facilities installed. Pointing towards an area behind nearby apartments, he said: “Something like a mobile toilet because if you go back there now you will find lots of faeces there.”

Among the charities to provide hot food to the men is the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland.

Co-founder Lucky Khambule said: “There is a lot that must be done by the Government. People are living here for more than 40 days, with no water.

Lucky Khambule, Co-founder of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland

“One guy was 11 days without going for a shower, it is very hard to go for your natural things that you need to do. Food is an issue. Bath is an issue. Toilet is an issue. You can’t live like that.”

Concerns have been expressed about the arrival of single male asylum seekers with protests held in some communities.

Asked about this, Mr Khambule said: “I would say to people ‘Give people a chance. You cannot prejudge a person that is new in the country, that he is going to be bringing crime, children not safe, women not safe’.

“There is no scientific proof that the crime increases because of the arrival of men. So it is a myth brought up by the narrative of the far-right with fearmongering of the communities.”

Among the men is a 50-year-old Palestinian who left Gaza a month ago. He is worried about the upcoming Ramadan, which starts on 11 March, as the conditions will make fasting difficult.

Another man, from Nigeria, was among a number of people who said they loved Ireland, and Irish people, despite the difficulties they have faced sleeping rough.

“I have never seen any part of the world where people show love like the island, the Irish people, they are lovely, they are love givers, they come here in numbers in different groups, provide us so many shirts, give us clothing, food, everything we need.

“We know we need accommodation. That is basic, but we are equally aware that the Irish Government is doing their possible best to provide us accommodation,” he said.

‘Accommodation shortfall’

A spokesperson for the Department of Integration said: “Ireland is currently accommodating more than 101,000 people between those fleeing Ukraine and International Protection (IP) applicants.

“Unfortunately, despite the tireless efforts of the department, there is currently an accommodation shortfall, particularly with respect to single adult males. As a result, the department is not able to provide accommodation to all single male international protection applicants with priority given to those within this group with identified vulnerabilities.

“The EU Reception Conditions Directive outlines the necessary reception conditions for receiving International Protection applicants. In line with this Directive, in circumstances where the State temporarily runs out of accommodation, the State can exceptionally offer different reception conditions.

“As part of these arrangements the Government agreed to a temporary increase in the expense allowance for International Protection applicants who are not in receipt of an offer of accommodation.

“International Protection applicants who are not provided with accommodation receive a temporary increase of €75 to their expense allowance. This increases the allowance from the current rate of €38 per week to €113.80 a week for all eligible applicants.

“All arriving applicants who have not received an offer of accommodation will be provided with an initial voucher of €100 to provide support in advance of receipt of the increased expense allowance.

The spokesperson said that in addition to these payments, a system of triage of adult males is being implemented to ensure that those who are most vulnerable are prioritised for the provision of accommodation.

“Drop-in day services are provided to all non-accommodated persons who wish to avail of them. In such centres, IP applicants can access facilities including hot showers, meals and laundry services seven days a week. Currently this department has agreements with three charities to provide these services in Dublin.”

The spokesperson also said that the department is in regular contact with the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and outreach services to identify vulnerable IP applicants who are rough sleeping.

“These organisations are provided with the department’s duty phone, which is monitored 24/7, and can be used to refer vulnerable international protection applicants who are then prioritised for accommodation.”

The spokesperson added that the department 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”.

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